Few things are more tragic than when a child suffers from violence or sexual abuse. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. It is important for everyone to understand the facts and how they can get involved in preventative efforts.
What is Considered Abuse?
Child abuse refers to any form of abusive behavior that occurs at the hands of someone the child knows and trusts. This could include parents, friends of the family, close relatives, or even babysitters. There are four primary types of child abuse; neglect, physical, sexual, and emotional. Neglect is when a child’s needs go unmet. The child may be malnourished or have poor hygiene. Physical abuse includes kicking, hitting, or other acts of violence, and will often result in unexplained injuries or fear of a caregiver.
When sexual abuse occurs, children often display a knowledge of sex or sexual play that is inappropriate for their age. Finally, there is emotional abuse, which often takes the form of threats or constant criticism. Emotionally abused children may experience delayed development, low self-esteem, and behavioral extremes.
When you know the signs of abuse, you should be observant of families around you. If you suspect that abuse is taking place, contact your state’s child abuse and neglect reporting hotline, being prepared to provide as much information as possible.
You can also take steps to increase awareness and involvement in your community. Setting up community playgroups, volunteering at your child’s school, or advocating for family-oriented services at local government meetings can help create a more communicative and supportive neighborhood. When people know each other and are closely involved, it becomes easier to detect and report abuse.
No child should be allowed to suffer from violence or sexual abuse. By understanding the issues and knowing how you can help, you can make a difference for the most vulnerable members of our community. To learn more, visit the Children’s Bureau.