Reports show varying stats on Mesa County
MESA COUNTY, CO – Data shows child abuse is on the decline in Mesa County for some organizations, while others report an increasing number of cases.
The Western Slope Center for Children saw an eight percent decrease in child abuse cases in 2016, compared to 2015. While there is no specific reason for the decline, officials said there were fewer cases at the beginning of 2016 than usual.
“On average, we usually see at least 30 or more children a month,” said Melissa Lytle with The Western Slope Center for Children. “I think reports were still being made. I still think the right kiddos were coming to our center.”
In 2016, the center said it provided services for 391 kids.
“Child abuse is here and we need to have a collaborative community response to it,” Lytle said.
Of those nearly 400 children, roughly 80 percent of them were victims of sexual assault. However, the center’s data show in 2016, there were more types of abuse reported than in years past.
“We did have a couple of human trafficking cases,” Lytle said. “And we saw unfortunately, some witnesses to some homicides that occurred last year.”
The Western Slope Center for Children said it did see an increase in the number of sexual assault exams. Between children and adults, 95 exams were given in 2016. That compares to 71 exams in 2015.
While The Western Slope Center for Children saw a decrease in child abuse cases, CASA reported an increase.
CASA provides a voice for abused and neglected children in the courtroom.
“We are seeing younger kids and a lot more severe abuse that has been happening than in years past,” said Janet Rowland, spokesperson for CASA. “It’s very severe. The injuries are worse.”
CASA said it provided services for 275 kids in 2016.
Child advocates encourage community members to understand the signs of abuse. If a child begins to behave differently than he or she normally does, that may be a warning sign.
Reporting child abuse can make the difference for a young life, according to child advocates.
“Sometimes people are apprehensive to call the hotline in fear that it is not abuse or they aren’t seeing the whole story,” Rowland said.
“But that’s not for them to decide. It’s up to law enforcement and the Department of Human Services.”
The Mesa County Department of Human Services said it saw a slight decrease in both child abuse cases and sexual assault cases at the end of 2016.
Still, advocates urge the public to call authorities if any type of abuse is suspected.
“We rely on the eyes and ears of our community to report child abuse and neglect to us, anytime that they suspect it,” said Kari Daggett, the Director of Child Welfare at DHS.
The local hotline can be reached at 970-242-1211. Daggett said caller remain completely anonymous, and any reports will be investigated.
CASA is hosting a ‘Fostering Hope’ event for the community on Thursday, Jan. 19 at 5:30 p.m. It will take place at the Grand Junction City Hall auditorium. It is a partnership event with multiple organizations to showcase a variety of ways community members can help kids who have been abused.
To reserve a spot or get more information about the event, visit www.FosteringHope.info.