The National Center for Disease Control recently labeled the maltreatment of children as a substantial public health problem with an estimated 950,000 child abuse cases in the US in 2006. In California, as recently as 2008 there were more than 700,000 referrals for investigation of child abuse and neglect involving early 500,000 children. These statistics are staggering when you consider that children are our most vital resource yet we fail to protect them and child abuse and neglect are increasing at an alarming rate. What can be done? More importantly what must be done?
In 1874, the New York society for the prevention of cruelty to children was formed, the first organization of its kind as a direct result of a legal case in which Mary Ellen Wilson was removed from an abusive foster home. The case was brought argued and won by the founder, an investigator and the attorney for the American Society of the prevention of cruelty to animals, but it wasn’t until the 1960’s with child abuse was formally identified as a social problem with devastating dimensions. California’s first child abuse reporting law went into affect in 1963. In 1965, the National Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act became law and provided funds to states that met the laws Mandate for Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect. By 1967, all fifty states have adopted some form of legislation requiring professionals to report suspected child abuse. Because of this legislation, child abuse reporting laws now provide definitions, procedures, lists of mandated reporters, liability for failure to report and legal protections for reporters. But despite all of the laws, child abuse still occurs. What people need to remember is child abuse has no socioeconomic boundaries, racial boundaries, cultural boundaries and that child abuse happens across the board in every neighborhood and in every community. The most important thing is to air on the side of caution. We want to be protectors of children don’t want to let something go under the radar screen. Before we can stop child abuse we must first identify what child abuse is. Once we are armed with this knowledge we can prevent it.
There are many different types of child abuse, physical, sexual, emotional and mental abuse. Physical Abuse is defined as of physical injury which is inflicted by other than by accidental means by a parent caretaker or other adult. Physical abuse is an intentional assault on a child that inflicts bodily harm. Corporal punishment is not in and of itself child abuse, but the can be if it causes internal or external injuries or is cruel and inhumane. Having a conversation with the child can help to determine what happened. The interview must be non threatening and friendly. Visual signs of physical abuse like strap mark’s behind of the backs of legs or when it looks like there’s bruising on the upper arms. These types of marks are indications that the child was intentionally hurt. Bruising on the frontal regions of a child’s body are inconclusive in identifying abuse as these can occur routinely and accidentally in children. There are some indicators of abuse that you should learn to recognize such as, lacerations, bruises on facial regions or burns to any part of the body.
Signs of emotional abuse can include hostile or exaggerated behaviors, fearful or withdrawn personalities, depressed or apathetic behavior, repetitive rhythmic movements such as rocking, fear of parents or caregivers
or not wanting to going home.
Sexual abuse can be identified when a child becomes indiscriminate with adults and forms inappropriate attachments. Sexual abuse becomes obvious when there are physical signs. Oftentimes, young people sexually abused in childhood spend the rest of their lives coming to terms with their
sexuality and have shame that is toxic for them. This can have a lifelong affect on their self esteem, security, personal relations, sexual relations and many become addicted to drugs, alcohol or or other self defeating behaviors like eating disorders, relationship addiction, sexual addiction or self mutilation.
Victims of child abuse often report their abusers and subsequently harbor feelings of shame and guilt. Children being ego-centric believe they some how caused the abuse by being “bad”, this mentality is reinforced by the legal process of justice. These crimes often go under the radar and are kept secret or the children are deemed unreliable witnesses through their own self perception. They will never know what it means to be “normal”. Recanting is a huge problem, often the truth is abandoned and the abuse continues. Sexual abuse can involve victims younger than one through age eighteen. Physical indicators include, physical trauma, lesions or irritations in the anal or genital area, swelling or discharge, abdominal pain, painful urination and even death on rare occasions. Sexually transmitted diseases,
psychosomatic symptoms, difficulty walking or sitting, bloody stools or blood stains on under clothing are indicators of abuse. A child who is dressed in inappropriate clothing for the weather or environment. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9yShZsDeY4http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67vF-91plXUBehavioral indicators may include excessive curiosity about sexual matters or advanced sexual behavior inconsistent with normal sexual development for a child’s age. Other indications include, compulsive indiscreet masturbation, unusually seductive behavior with classmates or adults, sleep disorders, drastic behavioral changes, speech disorders, inability to concentrate, school problems including academic performance or behavior,
overly compulsive behavior, eating disorders, age inappropriate behavior such as bed wetting, thumb sucking, fecal soiling, and fears. For more information on how to order this California State Mandated Reporter Training Course on DVD contact Susan (Hinesley) Smith at 800-468-4296 ext 2 or email her at Susan@nrsc.com.