In 2007, 5.8 billion children were reported to be victims of child abuse. That’s one reported incident every ten seconds. Every day, five of those children died and 75% of those dead were under the age of four. As human beings it is imperative we understand what child abuse is and how to prevent it. This article on how to prevent child abuse will teach you how to recognize child abuse, as well as report and prevent it.
Types of child abuse:
Also sometimes called psychological abuse, emotional abuse leaves no visible marks. This form of abuse includes constant criticism, threats, a lack of love, support, or care and any other act that hurts a child sense of self worth, confidence, or emotional development.
Physical child abuse is any action that causes physical harm to a child whether intentional or not. It is important that the difference between discipline and abuse be drawn here. Spanking a child is not considered child abuse unless it causes actual bodily harm. For more on disciplining a child rather than abusing, see this article on how to discipline a child.
Sexual child abuse includes not only any and all sexual acts but also visual display of sexual acts or genitals. Prostitution of a child is also covered under sexual abuse.
Substance child abuse involves any act of giving, intentional or not, or selling of illegal or harmful substances to a child. This includes mothers who breastfeed while using harmful drugs as well as those who sell drugs to children.
Child neglect can fall under any of the abuse categories. To fail to provide shelter, food, supervision, medical care, education, or emotional support is considered a form of child abuse. Child abandonment also falls under neglect.
Child abuse does not have to be an act of the parents. Usually when one form of abuse is present, another is as well.
Signs a child who is being abused often exhibits include:
1. Is withdrawn, fearful or anxious more than you would expect of the average child.
2. Shows extreme behavior and/or acts too grown up or infantile.
3. Lacks attachment to primary caregivers.
4. Has an unusual amount of welts, bumps, bruises, or other unexplained injuries that may or may not have a pattern from an object such as belt.
5. Makes an effort to cover these marks. (Ex/ You may see a kid who consistently wears long sleeves on hot days.)
6. Seems alert and watchful of danger, as well as shies away from touch.
7. Misses a lot of school, and/or is regularly seen unsupervised.
8. Is consistently poorly dressed, unclean, and/or ill without being treated.
9. Has difficulty walking, sitting, or changing in front of others.
10. Shows inappropriate knowledge or interest in sexual acts for his/her age.
11. Shows sign of a sexual transmitted disease.
A child may not show all of these signs, some children may not show any of these signs at all.
If you suspect child abuse, do not refrain from reporting it simply because you fear you are intruding on the rights or privacy of the parents. Do not assume someone else will do it. Even if you are incorrect and the investigation reveals no abuse, in the case of child abuse it is better to be safe than sorry. Be careful not let yourself fall into the mistake of stereotyping what a child abuser looks like. Anyone can abuse a child. Making the proper authorities aware of child abuse it the best way to prevent it from continuing.
How to Report Child Abuse or Suspicion of Child Abuse
You can report child abuse a number of ways. You can report abuse without revealing your identity by calling the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child. They will help you decide if what you are seeing is child abuse and walk you through how to report it yourself. Parents who feel they are abusing their children can also call this hotline for anonymous help or join their local Parents Anonymous meeting.
You can report it to your local Department of Child Protection Services. They will take your information but won’t reveal it to the family. You will be updated on the investigation. You can even report child abuse to your local police department. There is a full list of the Departments of Child Protection Services here:
Finally, if you feel the danger is immediate, you can and should call 911.
Preventing child abuse in your home:
Many parents that end up abusing their children do so out of stress or lack of proper parenting techniques. As a parent, you can reduce child abuse by knowing when you are at your limit and stepping away when you reach it. You can also keep a look out for other parents in this situation and be willing to help. There is nothing wrong with needing help to raise a child.
If you question your ability to parent, seek out information. You’ll find a wealth of parenting articles in my profile (found here), as well as elsewhere on the net. You can also reach out to family, friends, teachers, and even your local library. Raising a child is a learning process for both children and parents don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know everything.
There are also many child support groups around the world and government programs, which help educate parents feeling a little lost. Finally, you can also apply for public assistance if you have need. Not having money for food, shelter, and heating can cause unwanted stress and actually lead to neglect. You can find a full guide on how to get public assistance by clicking the phrase in this sentence.