MISSOURI (KFVS) - Missouri is testing out a new emergency text line that could make reporting child abuse easier for young victims.
A national nonprofit called Childhelp launched this texting service in several pilot states on February 1st.
The goal is to make talking about child abuse less intimidating by using a platform kids are comfortable with.
Crissy Mayberry is the executive director of Hope for One More, which helps run an emergency placement shelter in Jackson called Hope Children’s Home.
She thinks the new textline could break down barriers for kids who might be ashamed or afraid to talk about being abused.
“I think it is very much needed. Child abuse and neglect is very under reported. Kid’s don’t know who to tell,” Mayberry said. “It’s going to be a medium they’re more comfortable using, more used to using. It’s going to make them feel like they are able to report. So that we can get them protected and in a safe place sooner.”
Young victims can text the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline, and in a matter of time be connected with crisis counselor who can also refer them to other local resources.
Kendra Eads is the executive director the SEMO Network Against Sexual Violence.
The advocacy center does forensic interviews with victims of sexual and physical abuse.
“We know that 1 in 10 kids before the age of 18 is going to experience some form of abuse," Eads said. "So anything we can do to give kids more access to reporting and getting the help they need is wonderful.”
Eads says the texting hotline is a great starting point for kids, but when it comes actually describing what happened she thinks a text message is less accurate than other types of interviews.
"I think that texting allows for a lot more revision. It allows you to kind of second guess how you're phrasing something or framing a certain situation,” Eads said. “In person there is a lot of body language, there are facial cues, that is something you are not going to have with a text conversation. So that is why those questions may be more direct and you may not get as much comprehensive information through texts."
You can call or text the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline by dialing 1-800-4-A-CHILD or 800-422-4453.
Eads says the new texting service will not replace the official channels for reporting child abuse in the state.
That has to be done by talking with your local law enforcement agency or by calling the Missouri Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-800-392-3738.