Child abuse can include sexual, physical and mental abuse, encompassing anything from neglect, abandonment, or even exploitation.

In Oklahoma, 15 out of every 1000 children were abused in 2014, which was almost twice the rate that was reported in 2011.

The national statistics are just as sobering, with an estimated 679,000 children suffering as victims of abuse and neglect, with 47 states reporting that almost 3.1 million children received preventative services from various child protective services across the nation.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, but every day we should seek ways to empower young abuse victims to break their silence and stop the cycle of abuse.

Each year, the annual Field of Flags is displayed on the south side of the Oklahoma State Capitol to remember the thousands of children who are victims of abuse.

The Oklahoma flags are in place this month to remember the 42 Oklahoma children who died in the last year due to abuse or neglect, while the American flags represent the thousands of children across the country who are victims of child abuse.

This session, there are two bills moving through the legislative process aimed at helping child abuse survivors seek justice against their abusers. The measures would amend the timeframe for abuse survivors to file criminal and civil cases against their abusers.

House Bill 1468, the Hidden Predator Act, eliminates the current 12-year statute of limitations and allows criminal charges to be filed against an alleged perpetrator until the victim reaches their 45th birthday.

HB 1470 would extend the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse survivors to file a civil lawsuit from age 20 to the 45th birthday of the claimant.

Both measures passed on the Senate floor Monday afternoon by a vote of 44-0.

It’s imperative to remember one of the best ways to protect children is to be vigilant. If you have reason to suspect a child may be an abuse victim, please report it to the proper authorities immediately.

As always, I will be keeping you aware of Senate news and the business of the state.

Senator Wayne Shaw (R-Grove) serves District 3 in the Oklahoma State Senate. He may be contacted at 405-521-5574 or shaw@oksenate.gov.