Child Abuse Prevention
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and a good time to stop, acknowledge the statistics, and take some ownership to bring awareness to this heartbreaking issue.
They only hit until you cry,
After that you don’t ask why,
You just don’t argue anymore.
Luka, Suzanne Vega
Child abuse is a terrible problem, but there is hope for abuse if we stand together against it. Lives can be healed. Abusers can be stopped. Children can be protected. Lives can be saves. The cycle can be halted. Every one of you can help.
Take a moment to slowly read these startling facts. These are real. These are real children, real lives. This is the truth:
- A report of child abuse is made every ten seconds. From the time you began reading this post, a child abuse report has been filed.
- Every year over 3 million reports of child abuse are made in the United States involving more than 6 million children (a report can include multiple children).
- The United States has one of the worst records among industrialized nations – we lose between four and seven children every day to child abuse and neglect.
- This problem does not stop at childhood. In one study, 80% of 21-year-olds who report childhood abuse meet the criteria for at least one psychological disorder.
- More than 70% of the children who died as a result of child abuse or neglect were two years of age or younger – never lived past toddler years. More than 80% were not yet old enough for kindergarten.
- Around 80% of child maltreatment fatalities involve at least one parent as perpetrator.
We, here at Daily Mom, know how crazy and far-fetched that might seem. We meet here regularly to exchange ideas with you and share our stories of triumph, challenges, parenting tips, and photography pointers. How can this be happening while we are preparing meals, teaching our children, taking photos, playing at the park, and parenting? How can this be?
These are statistics but there are real faces that go with those names, real children crying and begging for help. The daily use of the word “abuse” within our culture has really driven a lack of overall sensitivity to the harms of abuse in general. Abuse is now more easily explained away, justified, and excused. But, abuse is not excusable! Lets join together to build overall awareness about Child Abuse by taking time to learn about the disguises of abuse so we can spot it and stop it.
Listed below are some common signs of an abused child. While this list serves as only a few examples, if you suspect child abuse, please get help for the child in question. Erring on the side of caution saves lives.
- Unexplained and irregular injuries: Let’s be clear, lots of kids fall down and get little cuts, bruises or scratches. Toddlers are especially prone to “falling” injuries like bumped up shins and forearms where they catch themselves once they have landed. However, abuse injuries are different. Take a closer look at the shape of the injury, and be mindful of typical “bump up” marks versus signs of struggle or blatant abuse.
- Change in behavior: Change is normal with growing children, but abuse causes an atypical kind of change. These changes usually come in the form of sudden and unhealthy “aggression” or “digression.”
- Sudden overly aggressive behavior is usually a coping mechanism for children who are scared. It acts at “spiny needles” to ward people from getting close. Much like a porcupine, this is a clear display that a child is scared for others to get close; maybe out of fear of further abuse or maybe to hide abuse. Either way, using warmth and understanding will be key to developing trust and a safe environment.
- Sudden digression will look strange and actually have most people baffled enough to keep them assessing behavior versus looking deeper at the cause. Some common digressions are bed-wetting, verbal cues like reduced communication or stuttering, nonverbal communication like a sudden lack of eye contact, or a combination of several digressions. These nonverbal cries for help will be a clear sign especially with children who are too young to verbally communicate.
- Emotional shift: Children learn how to cope from parents. If a child is not equipped with healthy coping mechanisms (as is likely the case with abused children), the tendency is emotional shutdown. These emotional changes can be conveyed with sudden anxiety, unrealistic fears, displays of rage/anger, or sudden depression (often shown by excesses or sudden lacking in the areas of eating and sleeping).
- Changes in performance and personal appearance: Performance and personal appearance are closely linked. Generally speaking, children who are performance oriented will also be image oriented. Especially in cases with these types of children, abuse can be clearly spotted. Has your well-dressed neighbor’s child suddenly stopped playing all of their much-cherished sports? Stopped caring for themselves? Does your formerly polished niece or nephew now look completely disheveled and given up on school? These are other tell-tale signs that something could very well be awry.
While we do not dare suggest that every child going through some sort of change is being abused, we say, “trust your gut.” If you notice any of these, and especially if you notice several of these, take more interest. Take the time and effort to show concern.
Knowing statistics is great. Being aware is wonderful. But, both are meaningless without taking action when warranted. In today’s time, there can be laundry lists of why you shouldn’t get involved, but there is some chance that if you don’t, nobody will. Then, coupled with abuse, a child gets a very clear message that their life does not matter and nobody cares. This further compounds abuse and clears a path for a child to go through a very certain antisocial feeling or lack of belonging. Please let children know that they matter by taking the effort to protect the children around you.
Teach your children to be aware too. Openly communicate with your daughters and sons about abuse and teach your children that it is not a secret. Ask questions when it comes up in conversations. Let them know that no form of abuse is acceptable; that you are there, no matter what, if someone abuses them. Explain that they can saves a life by sharing that kind of information with you if they hear about it from others.
Take a moment to find the abuse hotline or store the number for a national hotline in your phone so it is easily accessible. Get familiar with information you might need to report child abuse. Not only will this keep your own children safer, but it will empower you to possibly save another child’s life.
- CDC, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study
- Child Maltreatment, 2012
- Kids Count
- Brown, D. et. al. Adverse Childhood Experiences and the Risk of Premature Mortality; Am. J. of Preventative Medicine (2009) Vol. 37, Iss. 5
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