May is National Trauma Awareness Month, and Lake Regional Health System is drawing attention to an increase in non-accidental trauma cases. Non-accidental trauma is a health care term that includes child abuse, elder abuse, rape, domestic violence, gun violence and any other way someone purposefully inflicts trauma on someone else.
“Abuse and neglect are sensitive topics,” said Mariah Swinker, R.N., the trauma nurse coordinator for Lake Regional. “People prefer to think it’s not happening in our community, but our data show that it’s a far-reaching problem.”
The increase in Lake Regional’s non-accidental trauma cases has been dramatic the last few years. The number of cases rose 60 percent from 2016 (when there were 363 cases) to 2018 (when there were 582 cases). And it’s not slowing down. The first three months of 2019 had 164 cases — a 50 percent increase from the previous year.
In 2018, most of the cases originated in Camden, Laclede, Miller, Morgan, Phelps and Pulaski counties (81 percent), most involved sexual abuse (75 percent) and most involved victims under the age of 18 (87 percent). The numbers include cases where patients came to Lake Regional, as well as cases where Lake Regional nurses provided care at Kids’ Harbor in Osage Beach and in St. Robert.
It’s hard to determine the reasons for the increase, Swinker said, but the answer might include some good news about improved response.
“It could be the rates of abuse have increased some — there’s really no way for us to tell — but we do know that health care providers, advocacy centers and the community are doing a better job recognizing the signs and getting victims the right resources,” Swinker said.
At Lake Regional Emergency Department, patients with non-accidental trauma receive care from a Forensic Assessment and Consultation Team. FACT members are trained to care for individuals experiencing the shock and devastation of assault, abuse and neglect. FACT partners with several local organizations also involved in serving victims of abuse and neglect, including Kids’ Harbor, Citizens Against Domestic Violence/Victim Outreach Center, the Missouri Department of Social Services and law enforcement agencies.
Crystal Lloyd, R.N., Lake Regional’s FACT director, also attributes much of the caseload increase to a greater percentage of victims getting help.
“Advocates at the state level are working diligently to ensure that abuse disclosures are taken seriously,” she said. “Individuals are becoming more aware that abuse and sexual assault happen in our communities and are stepping up to make a difference. And there’s more open talk about resources for victims, which helps them connect with those resources.”
Make the Call
If you suspect someone is being abused or neglected, report it!
“You don’t have to be sure to make the call,” Lloyd said. “Share your concerns, and let those with experience lead the response.”
- Child abuse, call Missouri’s Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 800.392.3738.
- Human trafficking, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline at 888.373.7888. You also can text 233733 (BeFree).
- Domestic violence, call the Domestic Violence Emergency Hotline at 888.809.7233.
- Elder abuse, inside or outside of a long-term care facility, call Missouri’s Adult Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 800.392.0210.
Support Local Efforts
Perhaps you don’t have a case to report but want to be involved in preventing and stopping abuse. To support local efforts, connect with the following resources.
- Child abuse. Contact Kids’ Harbor at 573.348.6886 or visit kidsharbormo.org.
- Human trafficking. Contact Lake of the Ozarks Stop Human Trafficking Coalition at 573.873.8714 or visit stoptraffickinglakeozarks.org.
- Domestic violence. Contact Citizens Against Domestic Violence/Victim Outreach Center (CADV/VOC) at 573.346.9630 or visit cadv-voc.org.