The Horror Behind Child Abuse
It’s hard to fathom why or how anyone could intentionally abuse a child, but child abuse is a serious and prevalent problem in the U.S. Not only does child abuse affect the health and well-being of a child, but the lasting effects can physically and emotionally scar a child for life; causing suffering long after the abuse has stopped. According to the Mayo Clinic, an abused child may struggle with feelings of guilt, shame, or confusion. He/she may also be too scared to tell anyone about their abuse out of fear that they will be hurt even more if they tell anyone. An abuser can be someone who knows the child well, such as a family member or friend. Due to the horrific acts of violence, the child may develop a fear or a lack of trust for non-abusing adults, such as caregivers, family members, or family friends. An abused child is very alone, rarely having the ability to trust anyone, even those who are well-intentioned.
Can You Identify Signs of Child Abuse?
If you suspect that a child has become a victim of abuse, look for these “red flags”:
• Withdrawal from normal activities or friends
• Behavioral changes or even changes in performance at school
• Anxiety, depression or a noticeable loss of self-confidence
• Hesitancy to ride the bus to school or even more absences than usual
• Doesn’t seem to want to be at home or leave school
• Run away attempts
• Suicide attempts
These are warning signs of abuse. It is important to remember that just because you see a few of the signs, they are still only warning signs and not proof of abuse.
Types of Abuse and Warning Signs
Abuse can manifest itself in many forms and the warning signs may vary. Below is an overview of specific types of abuse and commonly observed signs. If you suspect a child is a victim of any type of abuse, it should be taken seriously.
• Unexplained fractures, burns, bruises or other injuries
• Injuries that can’t be explained convincingly
• Untreated dental or medical issues
• Sexual knowledge or behavior that is not appropriate for the age of the child
• STD or pregnancy
• Underwear with signs of blood
• Trouble sitting or walking
• Sexual abuse of other children
• Statements to the effect of admissions to being abused
• Inappropriate or delayed development of emotions
• Loss of self-esteem or confidence
• Withdrawal socially
• Random stomach or headaches for no reason
• Situational avoidance
• Desperately seeking affection or attention
• Poor weight gain or growth
• Lack of hygiene
• Not enough supplies or clothing to meet the needs of the child
• Theft of money or food
• Stashing food or eating everything in sight
• Deplorable attendance in school
• Lack of attention in areas of dental, medical or psychological fields after parents’ attention has been called to the problem
• Mood swings
If you have any concerns at all about the health and welfare of a child then it is time to call for help. The sooner that a child is removed from a harmful environment and gets support, the better the chances are for the child to recover both physically and emotionally.
If there is a need for emergency help dial 911. If there is not a physical emergency situation you can call the police, a child protection agency, the child’s doctor or even the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child.
Always put the interests of the child first no matter what. If you see or know of an abuse situation going on then call for help. Do the right thing, as you may be saving a life.