LUBBOCK, Texas — April is Child Abuse Awareness Month, and local organizations urged the public to look out for signs of abuse.

According to the Child Advocacy Center, in 2020 Lubbock County received 2,680 child abuse reports, and 962 of those were confirmed victims of abuse. That number averages out to three abused children a day.

Derek Danner, Executive Director of Children’s Advocacy Center, said children have no control over their environment, and it takes help from adults to get them out of abusive situations.

“It can be things like kids having trouble walking, sitting down, bruises, marks, changes in their demeanor,” said Danner. “It can be wearing long sleeve shirts as we are approaching summer.”

Also, Danner said the pandemic has brought forth new challenges and stressors, so parents should regroup before they resort to violence.

“We’ve got time on our side. You can always step back and take a deep breath, “said Danner. “You should never be striking any child in the head area, facial area. You should never be leaving marks or bruises. You’ve gone to an extreme at that point.”

Patti Patterson, M.D. Professor of Pediatrics at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, said abuse goes farther than physical abuse. Abused children could have trouble learning and focusing in school because they’re in constant flight or fight mode.

“If you’re about to be eaten by a bear, your heart rate goes up, your cortisol goes up, so you’re ready to flee or fight,” said Patterson. “Imagine if you’re like that all the time, the bear lives in your house, so you’re always on edge.”

Patterson said abused children could also sometimes resort to drug and alcohol use.

“People who are abused as children are at much higher risk of depression and even suicidality as they become adults and even in adolescence,” said Patterson.

However, Patterson said not all children are the same, and those who were abused, have the best chance to succeed when placed in environments that foster hope.

“Being in a nurturing environment makes a big difference in children who were abused as kids,” said Patterson.