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Lubbock County child abuse rate falls, still outpaces state, report shows

April 30, 2018 | Source: Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

By Matt Dotray

The Lubbock Area United Way released its annual Community Status Report on Monday, showing the rate of child abuse and neglect in the county has improved, but continues to outpace the state.

In 2017, according to the report, there were 1,032 confirmed cases of child abuse in Lubbock County — almost double the state average. One of those cases involved the death of a child. Lubbock County still posts these high numbers despite the rate decreasing in recent years. In 2008, the Texas Department of Public Safety said the child abuse rate in the county was 24.2 per 1,000 children. That rate has either dropped or stayed flat year-over-year since 2008. In 2017, the rate was 13.7 per 1,000 children.

The state’s rate of confirmed victims of child abuse in 2017 was 7.9 children per 1,000.

The report was released at the end of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, which in Lubbock saw area hospitals and children’s advocacy organizations promoting awareness of resources to curb abuse.

At Covenant Children’s Hospital, trauma coordinator Belinda Waters told the A-J last month that the hospital has emphasized education not only in Lubbock, but around the region, to help people recognize signs of child abuse.

“It’s an Emergency Department that actually screens for child abuse, and they’re five times more likely to detect it if it’s present,” Waters said during an event that had Covenant staff placing blue and white ribbons outside the children’s hospital. “So, we’ve done a lot of good public education, but this event specifically is for the public to become aware of how much of an issue that it continues to be.”

Another emphasis in the nonprofit’s annual report is domestic violence. The report says Lubbock County represents approximately 2 percent of the Texas population, but represents 16 percent of all domestic violence cases. The rate of family violence cases in Lubbock County is also nearly double the state’s average, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

The area United Way releases its community status report every year to highlight the issues facing the community. The report tracks the demographics, education, health and safety of the Lubbock area. The report has also become a reference for data that nonprofits throughout the region rely upon when developing grant proposals, a press release says.

“The Community Status Report is crucial to determining the needs in our community,” said Ashley Ammons, Lubbock Area United Way’s Community Impact Director. “The only way we can address these needs is by working together, as a community, and facing them head on. We are always stronger together.”

Along with discussing the numbers, the United Way highlights local non-profits that are working to combat these problems. The Children’s Advocacy Center of the South Plains, for example, conducted 791 forensic interviews in 2017. CASA of the South Plains assisted 235 children in finding a permanent home in 2017, and Women’s Protective Services provided services for 848 adults and 970 children.

And as the population continues to grow, so does the crime rate.

“Lubbock has seen increases in theft, burglaries, auto-thefts, and aggravated assault,” the report says.

Lubbock County’s rate of aggravated assaults was reportedly three times the state average.

One more issue highlighted in this year’s report is sex trafficking. Lubbock’s non-profit Voice of Hope reported its organization assisted 68 victims of sex trafficking in 2017. Nineteen of the victims were 17-years or younger.

A University of Texas study reported approximately 79,000 minors and youths were victims of sex trafficking in Texas in 2016.

“While sex trafficking in Lubbock is a grave concern, Voice of Hope provides advocacy, hope, and healing to those affected by sexual assault and sex trafficking,” Kim Stark, executive director of Voice of Hope, said in the news release.

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