How to Recognize and Report Child Abuse
By: Laura Que
As responsible adults we have a moral responsibility to look out for a childís welfare. Their physical and emotional health - even their very lives - depend on the guidance they receive from parents, relatives, guardians, teachers., etc. Tragically, there are adults who misuse their power, who turn the childís life into a living hell.
Most child abuse takes place in the home. Usually, kids are not mature enough to recognize the danger signs or understand they are being abused. Or, they are too frightened to say anything. Here are the forms which child abuse can take and the signs which may indicate that a child is in an abusive situation:
- non-accidental bruises, burns, abrasions, lacerations or swelling.
- belt buckle marks, hand prints, bite marks, scratches
- a history of recurring injuries
- unexplained injuries and/or conflicting explanations as to the cause
- very young children with injuries on the back of the body from neck to knees
- child is withdrawn, depressed, apathetic and tends to "act out."
- displays signs of emotional turmoil such as repetitive, rhythmic movement with no verbal or physical communication
- parent or guardian continually refers to the child as "it."
- child refuses to eat adequately and is very frail.
- displays overly exaggerated fears.
- continually seeks out and pesters other adults for attention and affection
- appears normal but is unable to perform normal learned functions for a given age, i.e. walking, talking, etc.
- unsanitary conditions in the home
- spoiled food or little or no food in the home
- untreated injuries which endanger the childís health
- unsafe home conditions
- youngster(s) left unsupervised for long periods
Sexual Abuse and Exploitation
- child makes statements about sexual activities with parents, other relatives, family friends, etc.
- shows early/exaggerated awareness of sex, either with a seductive interest or is fearful of close contact with others
- child is known to be a victim of other forms of abuse
- bloody underclothing, tearing or bruising of mouth or genitals.
Reporting Child Abuse
Members of certain professional occupations are required to report child abuse cases. But anyone who reasonably believes something is wrong should also do so. The misconception exists that, after a report of child abuse, the parents are arrested and the child is put in a foster home. While this may happen in extreme cases, itís more likely the family will be referred to counseling or parenting classes, based on the recommendation of trained child protective agency investigators after careful study and evaluation. Their goal is to try to keep the family intact. Suspected child abuse may be reported to your local police department (many of which have Child Abuse Units), or the county welfare department. Check your phone book under "police departments" and "government-county."
Also: National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-422-4453
Parents Anonymous 1-213-388-6685
Sexual Abuse Hotline 1-800-4A-Child (422-4453)
Laura Que is the author of the personal protection manual "ON GUARD How You Can Win the War Against the Bad Guys, from which this article was developed.