You’ve heard of child abuse and neglect. You’ve seen terrible cases of it on the news. You might have even known someone who has personally gone through it, but do you know how to spot it? It is your duty as a parent, friend, professional and an American Citizen to report it if you have any suspicion of it occurring. However, would you even know if you saw it? The goal is to be able to detect warning signs of child abuse so feel free to pass on this valuable information.
Child abuse and neglect is when a parent, caregiver or authoritative figure whether through action or failure to act causes injury, death, emotional harm or potential harm to the child. That’s a very broad and ambiguous definition. Unfortunately, most individuals are confused as to what constitutes as true abuse or parental styles which is commonly known as the “grey area”. In addition, certain types of abuse are much harder to see than others. To clarify, here are the different types of abuse:
- Physical Abuse
- Emotional Abuse
- Sexual Abuse
Physical abuse is commonly defined as non-accidental trauma or physical injury caused by punching, beating, kicking, biting, burning or otherwise harming a child. This is the most visible category of abuse. Here are some warnings to watch for:
- The explanation does not fit with the injury
- The child displays withdrawn or aggressive behaviors
- The child moves in a sore or uncomfortable manner
- Location of bruises – neck, face, chest, buttocks, thigh
Emotional Abuse is parent or caregiver’s behavior that seriously interferes with a child’s cognitive, emotional, psychological or social development. It can be broken down into these classifications:
- Ignoring – no physical or psychological presence is given to the child;
- Rejection – refusal to meet child’s needs;
- Isolation – preventing the child from having normal social interactions with family or friends;
- Exploiting or corrupting – involving child in illegal acts;
- Verbal assault – constant shaming or ridiculing the child
- Terrorizing – threatening or bullying child, creating fear.
Here are some warning signs to look out for in a child:
- Lack social skills or few, if any, friends
- Shows affection to individuals he/she hasn’t known for a long time
- Frequent absences from school
- Parent doesn’t show affection to child
- Parent doesn’t call he/she by name
- Child attempts to run away from home
Warning signs can also include overly seeking attention, fear of leaving the house or parent; inversely, taking on a caretaker role and being overly concerned for siblings or parent.
Neglect is the failure of providing food, clothing, shelter, medical care, or supervision by the parent or caretaker. This continuous lack of attention and affection can cause serious long term issues for the child or even death. Unfortunately, it is the most common type of child abuse and the form with the least attention. It is typically the hardest to identify but there are reliable indicators. The following points are common warning signs of neglect:
- Lack of nutrition
- Chronically dirty and unbathed
- Late or lack of attendance at school
- Self-destructive feelings or behaviors
- Lack of medical or dental care
The final category of maltreatment is sexual abuse. What is considered sexual abuse? It is any sexual act from actual intercourse to any deviation of it. This includes touching, fondling, engaging in prostitution, pornography, penetration, molestation and encouraging the child to participate in actions such as masturbation. Sadly, the culprits tend to be authoritative figures closest to them. This abuse in particular should receive special attention since it is very difficult for the child to express or explain. The idea of this happening in our day and age is disturbing but the first step towards making a difference is awareness. Here are the warning signs of a child experiencing sexual abuse:
- Fear of a certain person or place
- Sudden awareness of genitals
- Attempting to get other children to perform sexual acts
- Running away
- Becoming unusually secretive
- Nightmares or sleeping problems
Our wish is for all professionals, parents, and caregivers to be fully aware of what constitutes abuse and how to spot it. We hope that these warning signs of child abuse were helpful for any encounters you may face in the future. Be sure to call the department of children and families if you suspect any child undergoing abuse (800-962-2873).
Through our innovative programs and services – School Break Food Program; Dream BIG Days; financial resources for emergency, normalcy, education, and caregiver needs; and volunteer recruitment and retention programs – Voices provides the
necessary resources and tools to lead a healthy, safe, and happy childhood. For more information and ways to get involved with Voices for Children of Broward County, please contact Erica Herman via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.