VIRGINIA BEACH, Va., (WVEC) -- School is out and that means kids are no longer under the watchful eye of their teachers. Teachers are mandatory reporters of child abuse and neglect.

One Virginia Beach child abuse survivor is sharing her story to encourage people to report abuse — and save lives.

"I was physically, sexually and emotionally abused," said Debbie.

She said the abuse was at the hands of her father, a prominent member of the community.

"If you looked at him you would never know what was going on behind closed doors at home, the violence, the torture," she said.

Decades later, she is now a child advocate.

"When I grew up I didn't think anybody cared. I was convinced people did not really care, and I'm here to tell you that is not true," said Debbie.

Melynda Ciccotti, of Champions for Children: Prevent Child Abuse Hampton Roads, and Debbie want parenting classes to be considered the norm.

"We must start getting in front of child abuse," said Ciccotti. "Education about child development, about development of the brain of a child, about how experiences impact the child's well-being."

On recognizing signs of child abuse, Debbie says to ask yourself does a physical injury match the story given? Do you hear domestic violence coming from a home?

Trust your gut, ask questions.

She also said don't be a bystander and rely on somebody else to report an incident. Kids must be taught what is considered abuse and that it's OK for them or a friend to speak up.

For adult survivors, Debbie says seek treatment.

"There wasn't enough drugs to push down the pain, and the hurt. So I was either going to commit suicide, or I was going to get help. And I chose to get help," she said.

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