Child abuse has been a prevalent and controversial issue for many years now. It is, therefore, important that we understand and try to decrease the risks of child abuse for your children and other parents’ children. One must be familiar with the warning signs of abuse.
There are an estimated three million cases of abuse in nearly 5.5 million kids reported annually. More cases recounted from the Child Protective Services included neglect, followed by sexual and then physical abuse. There is a significant overlap in children that are abused, with most of them struggling with a combination of sexual abuse, neglect, or physical abuse.
Sexual abuse is described as any sexual activity that a child didn’t consent to and could not understand. This involves acts like oral-genital contact, anal and genital intercourse, and fondling. This also includes voyeurism, exhibitionism, and pornography. Studies revealed that one out of four girls and one out of eight boys are being sexually assaulted before they reach 18.
Physical abuse happens when a child is hit, burned, kicked, or shown any force, resulting in bodily injuries. Another study reported that there are 1 out of 20 kids that have been physically assaulted once or more in their lifetime.
Child Neglect and Abuse Risk Factors
Most of the child abuse cases happen in the family. Some of the common risk factors are parental mental health conditions like depression, domestic violence, and a history of abuse during childhood.
Child neglect and other types of maltreatment, on the other hand, are more typical in underprivileged families, teenage parents, or those that are into alcohol or drug abuse. Many children are assaulted by their caregiver or someone close to them than those abused outside of their home by some stranger. Neglect can be physical, emotional, or medical. Psychological abuse is caused by the kinds mentioned earlier of neglect. However, it can also involve verbal abuse, which undoubtedly hurts and damages a child’s emotional well-being and self-worth.
The Warning Signs
It is sometimes difficult to identify a child that has been assaulted. Children that have gone through maltreatment are often scared to confide to anyone because they anticipate that the blame will be placed on them or that nobody will believe in what they say. Often, they are timid because the abuser is someone that they know and love so much, or because they are afraid, or both.
There are no personalities or behaviors that are associated with a specific type of neglect or abuse. Below are some of the behavioral changes, and physical signs are seen in children that might have been abused or neglected.
- Sudden weight gain or inability to gain weight
- Any injury, such as a bruise, fracture, head injury, or burn that could not be explained
- Genital bleeding or pain
Other Changes That Should Be Monitored
- Almost always scared of something and experiencing depression and nightmares
- Sexual attitudes that are not age-appropriate for the child
- Loss of self-esteem
- Failure in school
- Social withdrawal
- Attempts at running away
Children who are neglected or abused struggle with significant mental health damage more than physical damage. Psychological and emotional assault and neglect block the child from acquiring the necessary tools to help them deal with stress and learn skills to teach them to be confident, resilient, and successful. Thus, a child who has not been treated well or has been neglected by his parents or guardians might have a range of responses and might even feel depressed or develop suicidal thoughts, withdrawal, or violent reactions.
As the child grows up, he may get into drugs or excessive alcohol, abuse other people, refuse to be disciplined, or tries to run away from home. When he becomes an adult, he might have marital and sexual problems and have depression as well.
Seeking and Finding Help
If you suspect your child is being abused, immediately find the help that he needs through your family physician or pediatrician. You may also want to visit your local child protection agency. Physicians are officially responsible for reporting suspicious cases of neglect or abuse to the state authorities. Your pediatrician can identify and treat any medical conditions, provide relevant information, or recommend a mental health professional if need be. He can also testify in court to acquire legal protection for your child and for the suspected person or perpetrator to be prosecuted.
In neglect or abuse, your child’s welfare is of utmost importance. He has to be placed somewhere safe and free from possible continuing neglect and abuse.
Open communication with your children will provide the best opportunity for you to know about a problem earlier – before it worsens and blows out of proportion. Tell your child that he won’t be reprimanded if he tells you about any abuse that he is experiencing. Stress that you have to know everything so that you can keep him protected, and it is always better to confide in you as a parent. Rather than scaring him more by telling him of the dangers of the world, teach him to be strong, confident, assertive, and count on you for whatever challenges he is going through.