Did you know that the month of April is Child Abuse Awareness Month? Seems to me that every month should be Child Abuse Awareness Month, however, I suppose having a dedicated month to bring forward this topic works in this society. Let's not wait for a particular month to know the tell tale signs of child abuse. The following information should be helpful in pointing out the signs of child abuse and perhaps even spur you into action if you see these signs.
1. Physical Abuse
3. Sexual Abuse
4. Emotional Maltreatment
VICTIMS OF PHYSICAL ABUSE
It is likely that child victims of physical abuse will suffer from several of the following:
1. They bear signs of injury, like bruises, welts, contusions, cuts, burns, fractures, lacerations, strap marks, swellings, lost teeth. The list of possibilities is long and not very pleasant. While internal injuries are seldom detachable without a hospital workup, anyone in close contact with children should be alert to multiple injuries, a history of repeated injury, new injuries added to old, and untreated injuries.
2. The older child may attribute the injury to an improbable cause, lying for fear of parental retaliation. The younger child on the other hand, may be unaware that severe beating is unacceptable and may admit to having been abused.
3. They have behavior problems. Among adolescents, chronic and unexplainable misbehavior should be investigated as possible evidence of abuse. Some children come to expect abusive behavior as the only kind of attention they can get, so they may act in a way that invites the physical abuse. Some may even break the law to come under the jurisdiction of the courts just to get protection from their abuser.
4. Their parents provide the necessities for their child such as food and clean clothes, but they anger quickly, have unrealistic expectations of their child, use inappropriate discipline and are overly critical and rejecting of their child. Alcohol and drug abuse are increasingly blamed for abuse.
VICTIMS OF NEGLECT
Physically neglected children will likely suffer from several of the following symptoms:
1. They are often hungry. They may go without breakfast, and have neither food nor money for lunch. Some turn into bullies and take the lunch money or food of other children and hoard whatever they get.
2. They show signs of malnutrition, paleness, low weight relative to height, lack of body tone, fatigue, inability to participate in physical activities, and lack of normal strength and endurance. They are also usually irritable.
3. They are unclean and unkempt; their clothes are torn and dirty; and they are often un-bathed. They may lack proper clothing for weather conditions, and their school attendance may be irregular. In addition, these children may frequently be ill and may exhibit a generally repressed personality, inattentiveness and withdrawal.
4. They are in obvious need of medical attention for such correctable conditions as poor eyesight, dental care, and immunizations. They may also lack parental supervision at home.
5. Their parents are either unable or unwilling to provide appropriate care. Some neglecting parents are mentally deficient; most lack knowledge of parenting skills and tend to be discouraged, depressed, and frustrated with their role as parents. Alcohol and drug abuse may be involved.
It should be noted that physical neglect can be a result of poverty and/or ignorance and not be intentional. There have been countless stories of mothers brining their crying baby to the clinic for help because they could not stand the crying anymore, only to find the baby was malnourished, because the mother did not know that the baby needed to be fed several times a day, everyday.
ãVICTIMS OF SEXUAL ABUSE
Children who are victims of sexual abuse may show the following signs:
1. The child may have torn, stained or bloody underclothing. They may experience pain or itching, bruises or bleeding in the genital area. They may have a venereal disease, or if the child is older, may be pregnant.
2. The child may appear withdrawn or engages in fantasy or infantile behavior. They may have poor peer relationships and may be unwilling to participate in physical activities. They my even engage in delinquent acts or run away.
3. Their parent may be extremely protective or jealous of the child. They may have been victims of sexual abuse themselves and are frequently absent form the home. Misuses of alcohol and drugs are common.
EMOTIONAL ABUSE AND NEGLECT
Emotional abuse and neglect are as serious as physical abuse and neglect, although this condition is far more difficult to describe or identify. Emotional maltreatment often involves a parent's lack of love or failure to give direction or encourage the child's development. The parents may demand far too much from the child in the area of academic, social or athletic activity or, on the other hand, may withhold physical or verbal contact indication no concern for the child's successes and failures, and give no guidance or praise.
The effect of such emotional abuse and neglect can often be far more serious and lasting than those of physical abuse and neglect. The emotionally abused or neglected child is often extremely aggressive, disruptive and demanding in an attempt to gain attention and love. They rarely are able to achieve the success in school that tests indicate them capable of.
Emotional maltreatment can be hard to determine. Is the child's abnormal behavior the result of maltreatment on the part of the parents or is it a result of inborn or internal factors? Possible behaviors associated with emotional abuse are as varied as head banging and rocking, phobias, hypochondria, antisocial behavior, developmental lags, drops in school performance, and attempted suicide.
A FAMILY AT RISK
While it is impossible to determine whether or not child abuse will occur in a given family situation, a family may be "at risk," if the parents:
1. Is a loner, feels isolated, with no family to depend on and no real friends.
2. Has no understanding of the stages of child development and does not know what the expect of a child at a given age.
3. Has a poor self-image, feels worthless, with a nagging sense of failure.
4. Feels unloved, unappreciated, unwanted, with a fear of rejection.
5. Has severe personal problems such as ill health, alcoholism, or drug dependency.
6. Feels that violence can often be the solution to life's problems or has not learned to "blow off steam," in a socially acceptable manner.
7. Is experiencing a time of severe stress, sudden unemployment, painful divorce, for example, without having any coping mechanism.
8. Was abused or neglected as a child.
ãOr the child:
1. Is "different," is smaller than average, sicklier, disabled, is considered unattractive, or was premature.
2. Resembles or reminds the parent of someone the parent hates, "takes after," a disappointing spouse or former loved one.
3. Is more demanding or otherwise has more problems than other children in the family do.
4. Is unwanted-- seen as a "mistake," or burden, having "ruined things," for the parent.
So remember, although April is National Child Abuse Awareness Month, we should keep these tell tale signs in the back of our heads for the eleven other months of the year.