National Child Abuse Prevention Month

This is one of those devastating posts that honestly hurts to write. It’s absolutely heartbreaking when we see a patient who is in for an X-Ray, CT Scan or MRI due to something we know wasn’t natural, or wasn’t caused by a genuine accident. Unfortunately, we’re talking about child abuse. As April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, we thought we’d share some tips on how to detect child abuse, so that if you suspect it you can report it to the proper authorities to investigate.

If you are a caregiver, babysitter, teacher, or counselor, you may be a child’s only hope in stopping abuse. You are their defense system. Even if you aren’t in one of these professions, it’s important to note the common signs that child abuse may be happening. The only way to intervene is to recognize there is a problem in the first place. Without further ado, here’s what you need to know:

Types of Child Abuse

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Children’s Bureau states that the types of child abuse include physical, sexual, neglect, and emotional abuse. They noted that more often than not, these types of abuse are combined rather than performed alone. A child that is neglected may also be suffering from a sexual abuse, and one that is suffering from physical abuse may also be suffering emotional abuse.

Signs of Child Abuse

The following are signs of the four common types of child abuse.

Physical Abuse

  • The child has frequent bruises, broken bones, cuts, black eyes, or bites that can not be explained
  • They are frightened of their parents or cower in fear when adults approach them
  • The child is absent frequently with no explanation, only to return with wounds that are healing or fading
  • They tell you they are being abused
  • Their parent or caregiver uses harsh and excessive physical or emotional discipline with the child in public

Neglect

  • The child is often absent, and when they do show up they are dirty or have extreme body odor
  • The child constantly begs for or steals food or money – sometimes they will even hoard snacks or school supplies
  • They lack medical or dental care that is clearly needed
  • They often have insufficient clothing for extreme weather conditions (i.e. no coat when it’s freezing outside)
  • The child tells you no one is home to take care of them

Emotional Abuse

  • The child exhibits extreme behavior of being overly compliant, overly passive, or extremely aggressive
  • They are excessively or even inappropriately affectionate, constantly seeking hugs and praise
  • They act out frequently to try and get attention
  • The child acts too much like an adult, such as parenting other children; or at the other extreme they act too infantile throwing tantrums, rocking, and head-banging
  • The child states they feel no one loves them, and might even say they feel like their parents don’t care about them
  • In the most extreme cases, the child may even attempt suicide

Sexual Abuse

  • The child suddenly refuses to change clothes in front of others or engage in physical activities when it never bothered them before
  • They have a hard time walking, bending, or sitting down
  • They tell you about nightmares and wet the bed well past the age of normalcy
  • The child starts making explicit sexual remarks, becomes promiscuous or begins wearing inappropriate and exposing clothing
  • They become pregnant or contract an STD
  • The child tells you they are being sexually abused

Now that you know the common signs for the four types of child abuse, what should you do if you suspect a child is being abused? Don’t wait! Act now, and report it!

Reporting Child Abuse

Below are the exact tips described by the Child Welfare Information Gateway for how to report suspected child maltreatment:

If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, or if you are a child who is being maltreated, contact your local child protective services office or law enforcement agency so professionals can assess the situation. Many States have a toll-free number to call to report suspected child abuse or neglect. To find out where to call, consult the Information Gateway publication, State Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Numbers.

Anyone can report suspected child abuse or neglect. Reporting abuse or neglect can protect a child and get help for a family it may even save a child’s life. In some States, any person who suspects child abuse or neglect is required to report. To see how your State addresses this issue, read the Information Gateway publication, Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect.

Child Welfare Information Gateway is not a hotline for reporting suspected child abuse or neglect, and it is not equipped to accept reports of this nature. Information Gateway is not equipped to offer crisis counseling. As a service of the Children’s Bureau in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Information Gateway does not have the authority to intervene or advise in personal situations.

Childhelp® is a national organization that provides crisis assistance and other counseling and referral services. The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with professional crisis counselors who have access to a database of 55,000 emergency, social service, and support resources. All calls are anonymous. Contact them at 1.800.4.A.CHILD (1.800.422.4453).

If you need help with personal or family situations, you may wish to visit our resources on Where to Find Help.

Bottom Line – If You See Something, Say Something

No child should suffer in silence. The innocent young person that you suspect is dealing with child abuse could very well be praying someone like you will report what you see. They may be too scared or simply unable to report it themselves. If you see something, say something.

You don’t even have to give your name. The important thing is to speak up. The truth is, your courage to speak up could save a child’s life. Take care of yourselves, hug your loved ones, and may we all work together to stop and prevent child abuse.

Posted in: Health & Wellness

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