SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – The COVID-19 pandemic has not impacted the number of child abuse cases reported in the area, according to Shreveport police.
Sabrina Roquemore is a juvenile detective with the Shreveport Police Department.
“The cases that we handle are child abuse/neglect cases, missing people, runaway juveniles,” she said. “Basically, anything dealing with children who are exploited or being abused.”
It’s a job that never stops.
“There’s a constant case load in this unit,” said Roquemore.
She said evidence of abuse, like bruises and scars, isn’t always obvious. Abuse can also be emotional, psychological or sexual.
Roquemore said kids need adults they can trust to turn to, or to notice when they may be acting differently.
“You gotta kind of be mindful of things that are kind of out of the ordinary,” she said. “Those responses, those behaviors… those things are good to pay attention to.”
When child abuse is reported to law enforcement, the non-profit Gingerbread House is often contacted to help the young victims share their experiences.
“On average in a day, we usually see four to five new forensic interviews,” said Alex Person, director of education and forensic interviewer for Gingerbread House. “On a monthly average, it’s somewhere between 65 and 75 new interviews a month.”
That adds up to more than 800 new cases a year and Person said the pandemic has brought in a near-record number of new cases.
“So, the world is at a halt, but child abuse is not,” she said.
The group’s goal is to give a voice to the victims.
“Abused children are oftentimes silenced by their abuser and being told it’s their fault, they’ve done something wrong. To not tell anybody or they would harm themselves or their family.”
By teaching children and the community about the signs of abuse, they’re hoping to increase awareness.
“All genders, races, ethnic groups – no child is exempt from abuse,” said Person. “Every child could potentially be abused, and that’s why education is so key.”
If someone has any suspicions of possible abuse taking place, they are encouraged to report it.
“If we expect our adults in the city to be better for our future, we also need to expect our children to be better,” said Roquemore. “And, in order for that to happen, we have to be there for them.”
The Gingerbread House offers free in-person and virtual training programs to help identify abuse for kids as young as 2, all the way up to adults.
You can anonymously report abuse by calling the Louisiana Child Protection Hotline at 1-855-4LA-KIDS.