Guam - Child abuse is an issue no one likes to talk about, but KUAM News brings you a closer look at the subject and find out how prevalent it is on Guam. A weeklong conference on assessment tools to gauge the needs and strengths of children and adolescents hosted by the U.S. Department of Mental Health and Human Services wrapped up today at The Westin.  

We took the opportunity to speak with Mental Health professionals about the issue of child abuse.  Arlene Gadia, a social service supervisor at Child Protective Services, says the agency receives about 1,200 referrals every year of child abuse or maltreatment.  "We are finding that the number is increasing, but it could also be people are more educated so they make the referrals to us," she said.

When asked how many of the referrals involve sexual abuse, Gadia responded, "I'm not really able to give you a number, but we are finding that these kinds of cases are becoming more and more complex.  A lot of times we receive referrals and children are perpetrated by one of their parents we are finding more cases of children being perpetrated by siblings."

Annie Unpingco, administrator for children's services for Project I Famagu'onta at Mental Health, says there are certain factors that can increase the likelihood of abuse.  "We have a major drug problem on island alcohol, as well as drugs, and that plays a critical part in family life we have many single parent homes like moms or dads and children that lack resources."

She also speculated that the incidence of child abuse locally is about the same as that of the United States mainland.

Alfred Arensdorf is a child psychiatrist from Hawaii, on Guam presenting methods to assess children and adolescent mental health progress. Talking about the telltale signs of child abuse, he says, "It may manifest in a number of ways: they may have sleep problems, they may have regressive behaviors, they may begin to wet the bed, they may actually begin to act out the abuse they have experienced."

But Arensdorf says there is hope for victims, adding, "Good therapeutic approaches cognitive behavior approaches help them dampen their anxious reactions and traumatic reactions and begin to incorporate a view of themselves that they can end up healthy and okay.  They can end up where they relate will with others then be harmful to other people."

As for Gadia, she explained a way to get help reporting or preventing child abuse.  "If you have any questions as far as maltreatment, you are more than welcome to call our agency.  We will be happy to talk to you and direct you and direct you accordingly.  Our foremost goal is to protect our children."

For more information on child abuse or to report abuse contact Guam Child Protective Services at 475-2653.