Child abuse. The mere thought of it sends chills down your spine and makes your hair stand on end. For those who suffer it, the nightmare continues for a lifetime, or until death at an early age. For those who are guilty of perpetrating the crime, the punishment cannot be severe enough or the shame of it great enough. Forgiveness of the incident is hard to provide, and treatment of the psychological effects is long term. Some victims never recover, even as adults. Others who have been scarred emotionally, physically, spiritually, and mentally carry the memories forever. Those who are abusers are in many cases those who have been abused as children and act out those violent actions in behavior as older children, adolescents, or adults.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, according to pediatrician Dr. Vincent Ianelli on About.com. Awareness of child abuse is a major factor in leading to the reduction of cases, as noted:
--Learn about child abuse prevention, recognizing the signs of child abuse, and the devastating effects of child abuse.
--Review some of the signs of child abuse that can alert you to when a child is being abused.
--Learn about child abuse statistics, including how many cases of suspected child abuse are reported each week and where the reports come from.
--Child abuse cases and stories straight from the headlines of recent newspapers can help to highlight how common child abuse is so that everyone may be more likely to report suspected child abuse and neglect.
According to HelpGuide.org, child abuse is more than bruises and broken bones. While physical abuse might be the most visible sign, other types of abuse, such as emotional abuse or child neglect, also leave deep, long lasting scars. Some signs of child abuse are subtler than others. However, by learning common types of abuse and what you can do, you can make a huge difference in a child’s life. The earlier abused children get help, the greater chance they have to heal from their abuse and not perpetuate the cycle. Learn the signs and symptoms of child abuse and help break the cycle, finding out where to get help for the children and their caregivers. Much more info about this topic is available at this website: http://helpguide.org/mental/child_abuse_physical_emotional_sexual_neglect.htm.
According to the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information, the following signs may signal the presence of child abuse or neglect:
1.) Signs of Child Abuse in The Child:
--Shows sudden changes in behavior or school performance.
--Has not received help for physical or medical problems brought to the parents' attention.
--Has learning problems (or difficulty concentrating) that cannot be attributed to specific physical or psychological causes.
--Is always watchful, as though preparing for something bad to happen.
--Lacks adult supervision.
--Is overly compliant, passive, or withdrawn.
--Comes to school or other activities early, stays late, and does not want to go home.
2.) Signs of Child Abuse in The Parent:
--Shows little concern for the child.
--Denies the existence of—or blames the child for—the child's problems in school or at home.
--Asks teachers or other caretakers to use harsh physical discipline if the child misbehaves.
--Sees the child as entirely bad, worthless, or burdensome.
--Demands a level of physical or academic performance the child cannot achieve.
--Looks primarily to the child for care, attention, and satisfaction of emotional needs.
3.) Signs of Child Abuse in The Parent and Child:
--Rarely touch or look at each other.
--Consider their relationship entirely negative.
--State that they do not like each other.
Child abuse is doing something or failing to do something that results in harm to a child or puts a child at risk of harm, according to Medline Plus and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). And, child abuse can be physical, sexual, or emotional. Neglect, or not providing for a child's needs, is also a form of abuse. Most abused children suffer greater emotional than physical damage. An abused child may become depressed. He or she may withdraw, think of suicide or become violent. An older child may use drugs or alcohol, try to run away or abuse others. Child abuse is a serious problem. If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, call the police or your local child welfare agency.
According to the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP), child abuse is common. The newspapers and TV news are so full of reports about child mistreatment that you cannot help but wonder how safe your child really is. Although it is a mistake to become overprotective and make your child fearful, it is important to recognize the actual risks and familiarize yourself with the signs of abuse. Approximately three million cases of child abuse and neglect involving almost 5.5 million children are reported each year. The majority of cases reported to Child Protective Services involve neglect, followed by physical and sexual abuse. There is considerable overlap among children who are abused, with many suffering a combination of physical abuse, sexual abuse, and/or neglect. Most child abuse occurs within the family. Risk factors include parental depression or other mental health issues, a parental history of childhood abuse, and domestic violence. Child neglect and mistreatment is also more common in families living in poverty and among parents who are teenagers or are drug or alcohol abusers. Although it is certainly true that child abuse occurs outside the home, most often children are abused by a caregiver or someone they know, not a stranger.
Sexual abuse is any sexual activity that a child cannot comprehend or consent to, according to HealthChilren.org and the AAP. It includes acts such as fondling, oral-genital contact, and genital and anal intercourse, as well as exhibitionism, voyeurism, and exposure to pornography. Studies have suggested that up to one in four girls and one in eight boys will be sexually abused before they are eighteen years old. Physical abuse occurs when a child’s body is injured as a result of hitting, kicking, shaking, burning, or other show of force. One study suggests that about 1 in 20 children has been physically abused in their lifetime. Child neglect can include physical neglect (failing to provide food, clothing, shelter, or other physical necessities), emotional neglect (failing to provide love, comfort, or affection), or medical neglect (failing to provide needed medical care). Psychological or emotional abuse results from all of the above, but also can be associated with verbal abuse, which can harm a child’s self-worth or emotional wellbeing.
According to ChildAbuse.com, the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information has developed compendia of civil state laws to help legal and non-legal professionals in the analysis, formulation, and implementation of child protection and child welfare legislation. The Compendia (previously titled State Statutes Elements) contain citations and text of key civil statutes pertaining to child maltreatment, child welfare, and domestic violence. The Compendia are updated and expanded annually. The Compendia are intended as research tools and do not substitute for the official version of any statute. Also, to help meet the information needs of prosecutors, law enforcement officers, and other professionals who work to adjudicate criminal child maltreatment, the National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse (NCPCA), American Prosecutors Research Institute (APRI), has developed Child Abuse and Neglect State Statutes Elements. The Elements contain citations and text of key criminal statutes related to investigations, child witnesses, and crimes. The State Statutes Elements should be used only as research tools, and not as a replacement for the official version of any statute. In addition, because many other factors besides the statutes collected for the Elements may influence a particular case, users should not rely on this information for legal advice but instead seek the advice of counsel. NCPCA also has produced several criminal Statutes-at-a-Glance publications. Statutes-at-a-Glance highlight specific topics from the criminal State laws Elements, presented in a table format to provide a quick overview and comparison across the States. Much more info about these tools can be found online at http://www.childabuse.com/childabuse_statelaws.html.
Handling abuse, especially for children, can be difficult. According to KidsHealth.org, by now you know it's important for a child to tell someone if they think they are being abused. But how does a kid tell? Here are some ideas:
--Talk to a trusted adult in person.
--Talk to a trusted adult on the phone.
--Write a note, an email, or send a letter to the trusted adult.
--Tell someone at school, like a school counselor, school nurse, teacher, or coach.
--Tell a friend's mom or dad.
--Tell someone who answers the phone at a hotline service, such as 1-800-4-A-CHILD.
The way a child who has been abused tells and whom he or she tells will be different depending on the situation. The most important thing is to tell someone — or even several people — until someone takes action to stop the abuse from happening. An abused child who tells on an abuser might be helping other children, too. Some abusers hurt more than one child. It takes a lot of courage to talk about this kind of thing, and sometimes it takes a while to feel strong enough to talk about it. That's OK. Just know that, in the end, telling a safe person is the bravest thing you can do. It can feel really good when you take steps to stay safe and protect other children from getting hurt.
There are many resources available to help fight child abuse. Although there are many internet sites that offer assistance on this topic, here are a few that have materials and information to use if you suspect someone is being abused:
If you suspect that a child is being abused, according to Dr. Ianelli, you should report it right away. There are many reasons why people don't report child abuse, such as:
--Not wanting to get involved.
--Not being sure if it really is child abuse.
--They aren't sure how to make a report of child abuse.
--Thinking that someone else will do it.
--Not being aware of child abuse laws in their states, which could make reporting mandatory for certain people.
--Being afraid of getting in trouble for filing a report if the child isn't really being abused, which doesn't happen as long as you are making the report in good faith.
None of these reasons is going to help a child who is being abused though, especially if they are in a life threatening situation. What if you're wrong? The local child welfare agency will likely do an investigation. If you are right and stop the abuse, you may change or save a child's life.
Until next time. Let me know what you think.