Trusting instinct best way to fight child abuse in Kane County

It doesn't take a great deal of detective work or a Perry Mason moment to stop child abuse.

All it takes is a phone call.

"Trust your instinct," said Debra Bree, executive director at the Child Advocacy Center in Geneva, an arm of the Kane County state's attorney's office that investigates crimes against children.

"If you think something is happening, report it. If a child tells you something, believe it," said Bree, one of several speakers Tuesday at the center's "Balloon Launch for Hope" to mark the beginning of Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Police, prosecutors, and child advocates released 295 blue balloons in to the air, with each balloon symbolizing the 295 cases investigated by the center last year.

State's Attorney Joe McMahon, center officials and people from CASA Kane County, which provides special advocates for children, plan to send out an informational packet next week to "mandated reporters" of child abuse to help them understand their role in spotting abuse.

Authorities also have produced a podcast available at to teach people about spotting abuse and their responsibility to report it.

State law requires mandated reporters, such as school employees, law enforcement officers, doctors, day care workers and clergy, to call the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services at (800) 25-ABUSE or (800) 252-2873, if they have a "reasonable suspicion" a child is being abused.

Lark Cowart, a Kane County assistant state's attorney who supervises the office's juvenile unit, said the mandated reporters must call DCFS if they suspect or learn of abuse, and telling one's supervisor or principal is not enough.

"All of us can speak up if we see signs (of abuse), whether we're mandated reporters or not," McMahon said. "There's no harm in making a report as long as it's a good faith report. The take-away is to err on the side of caution and that would be making a report to DCFS."

In addition to being aware, residents also can donate items to the Friends of Kane County Child Advocacy Center, which helps provide families of abuse victims that are displaced with immediate needs ranging from bedding and toiletries to strollers and school supplies. Visit for more information.

A woman who was sexually abused by a relative also spoke at Tuesday's event.

Experts say 90 percent of sexual abuse victims are abused by someone they know.

The woman, who was abused starting from age 11 through 14 and came forward in 2011 when she was 16, told of the pain she still feels.

"Sexual abuse does not tear families apart. Abusers tear families apart," she said. "You are allowed to walk away from people who hurt you. It's not your fault."

Child abuse prevention a year-round effort in Kane

Group hosts Hands Around the Courthouse in Geneva

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