LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - The holiday season is filled with joy for many, but child advocates believe it is a time of fear and neglect for many children in East Texas.
"A lot of times it is a financially stressful time of year," Harold's House Executive Director Deanna Wallace said. "You have holiday gatherings and family gatherings and there is just a lot of stress and pressure throughout the whole season."
Wallace said her staff sees an increase in case load during the holiday season, when children are at home for a prolonged period of time.
"I would say our numbers increase five to 10 percent over holidays and summer breaks," Wallace said.
For advocates like Wallace, that 10 percent increase is just the tip of the iceberg. Wallace said about only 10 percent of all abuse victims ever come forward to report a crime. With many cases, specifically sexual in nature, the victims have a greater chance of knowing the suspect on a personnel level.
"It's not so much stranger danger," Wallace said. "With large family gatherings, some of these potential perpetrators maybe around your children for prolonged periods of time where they normally wouldn't be."
When school bells ring on Monday students will return to class and for some to a safe environment. Centers like Harold's House, Kalin's Center and The Family Crisis Center of East Texas all make sure educators are trained on what to look for.
"We have an educator that will go out and talk to teachers about what to look for," Wallace said. "Kids may be unusually withdrawn. If a teacher has spent a semester with the kids already, they have a good indicator of what normal behavior is like. What to look for is if they're not playing with their friends, they don't want to expose areas of their skin where there may be signs of abuse.'