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Talking about child abuse

In recognition of Child Abuse Awareness Month, the GFWC Junto Woman’s Club hosted a guest speaker at its monthly meeting for April.

The Woman’s Club has hosted its meetings virtually every month since the pandemic. However, the club was able to meet outside and in person with a guest speaker to talk about Child Abuse Awareness Month.

“We are so excited to be back together,” said Nan Sullivan of the GFWC Junto Woman’s Club. “We’ve worked hard this year to meet.”

The guest speaker was Callie Crosson from the Suffolk Department of Social Services. She informed the women that Suffolk investigated 986 child abuse cases last year. The cases have gone up between 80 to 100 each year.

Common signs of abuse include sudden behavior change, wetting the bed, not appropriately dressed for the weather, always hungry and disclosing a secret.

Crosson also debunked the myth that all Child Protective Services does is take children away from their families. While this does happen, it is usually a last resort.

“When we get a call at Child Protective Services, we look at the case, but also look at tools to strengthen and help the family,” said Crosson.

According to Crosson, the goal is to prevent further child abuse and keep the family together. Child Protective Services looks for the least restrictive option that will ideally strengthen the family and identify problems to fix as a family.

The pandemic has also caused more stress in homes as kids are at home trying to learn online, which can cause unrealistic expectations. Also, if the parents are home all day due to either working remotely or losing their job, that outlet is removed. Having everyone home all day can cause tensions where there were none before.

Many cases this year have gone unnoticed due to COVID-19 keeping the schools closed. Now that many of the students are back to at least hybrid, teachers and guidance counselors can serve as an extra set of eyes to watch for signs.

The GFWC Junto Woman’s Club regularly reaches out to the community to help in various areas, whether it is bagging oysters to make reefs in the Nansemond River or create an information booklet for students in Suffolk schools to inform them on human trafficking.

For Child Abuse Awareness Month, the club hosted Crosson to learn other ways they could help, including foster care classes and donating luggage and other items that foster kids need.

Every year, the club displays a custom banner, pinwheels and silhouettes at Kelly’s Nursery off Godwin Boulevard.

“Kelly’s Nursery has been great to allow us to put our display up every April,” said Janice Morris with the GFWC Junto Woman’s Club.

To report abuse, call the child abuse hotline at 1-800-552-7096.