April is Child Abuse Awareness Month, and Lubbock is hosting a Child Abuse Summit March 27, 2015 at the Knipling Education Conference Center.

I spoke with Brandy Pitts from Covenant Children's Hospital about the event and child abuse.

Did you know that Lubbock County and the state of Texas leads the nation in reported child abuse cases and child abuse-related fatalities? This should not be the case.

Pitts said we should all be on the lookout for signs of child abuse, including bruising and sudden behavior changes. She said that if a child is normally outgoing and suddenly becomes withdrawn or anxious, that may be a sign of child abuse or neglect.

Another sign is if a child is dirty or not properly clothed for the weather.

Brandy said that new research demonstrates that exposure to violence and abuse can actually cause damage to and change a child's DNA, resulting in illness and disease as an adult.

Additionally, she said that children who suffer child abuse are more likely to smoke, abuse drugs and alcohol, engage in high risk sexual behavior, become teen parents, be arrested as a juvenile, suffer from depression, anxiety, eating disorders, post traumatic stress disorder and have conduct issues.

I can personally relate to almost everything on that list and have lived through them as a result of child abuse. It's not something I talk about much, but I suffered child abuse in every sense of the word from the age of 4 to 13 years old. Child abuse absolutely robs a child of the innocence and the childhood they were intended to have.

The one thing I can say is that God has redeemed me from my past and healed what was damaged and broken. We pray for His protection over our children and the hope that Texas and Lubbock County can lead the nation in the decrease in child abuse and child abuse-related fatalities.

If you suspect a child is a victim of child abuse, you should report if to CPS (Child Protective Services) or call the hotline 24/7 1-800-252-5400 or visit https://www.txabusehotline.org.