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Unspoken Cries for Help

Updated on December 19, 2020

Did you know?

Every ten seconds everyday, there is a report of child abuse. Every year there are at least 3 million reports made in the United States. At least four children result in a fatality daily, and at least three out of the four are under the age of four. The reason for this is children under the age of four are more dependent on the caregiver, more fragile, and more trusting of individuals. In 2006, the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) estimated 1530 child fatalities occurred. This is a huge dilemma in our world today. It seems every time I turn on the news there is another case. Do you hear their cries? You're probably wondering, how can I help? We as concerned citizens need to educate ourselves on child abuse. We need to react. How would you feel if it were your child? What are the signs? Who commits these crimes?

"This Doesn't Happen In My Neighborhood."

You are only kidding yourself, if this is what you believe. It happens in all walks of life. It happens in all types of neighborhoods. It happens at all social economic levels. It happens in all cultural and ethnic levels. No child is immune to child abuse. The only way to prevent child abuse is to educate yourself and others are the signs of abuse.

Education on abuse

First, the definition of child abuse is the physical, sexual, or emotional mistreatment of children. It is abuse which results in harm, potential for threat or harm, or threat of harm to a child. There are four major categories of child abuse. The four categories are neglect, physical abuse, psychological/emotional abuse, and sexual abuse of a child. Let's continue to learn about each of these, in order, for us to better understand the signs.

National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD


Neglect occurs when a responsible adult fails to provide adequately for various basic needs of the child, including physical, emotional, educational, or medical. Physical neglect happens when the caregiver doesn't provide the basic necessities to a child such as adequate food, clothing and shelter. It can also include child abandonment, inadequate supervision, and failure to provide for a child's safety and physical and emotional abuse. Emotional neglect occurs when a child observes chronic spousal abuse, a caregiver allows a child to engage in use of drugs and alcohol, or withholding affection from a child. Educational neglect occurs when a caregiver fails to enroll a child of mandatory school age in school or providing home schooling or needed special educational training. Medical neglect occurs when the caregiver fails to provide appropriate health care for a child.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse includes hitting, striking, shoving, slapping, kicking, burning, bruising, choking, shaking, or pulling hair or ears. Shaking a baby results in Shaken Baby Syndrome. Shaking a baby causes intracranial pressure, swelling of the brain, diffuse axonal injury (most traumatic and devastating of brain injuries), and oxygen deprivation.

There are many forms of physical abuse including contact. It includes displaying pornography to a child, indecent exposure of genitals to a child, actual sexual contact against a child, pressuring a child to engage in sexual activities, physical contact with a child's genitals, using a child to produce child pornography, and viewing of a child's genitalia without physical contact.

Psychological or Emotional Abuse

Psychological or emotional abuse of a child is the hardest to define. It includes ridicule, name-calling, destruction of personal belongings, torture or destruction of pet, degradation, excessive criticism, withholding communication, routine labeling or humiliation, and inappropriate or excessive demands.

Effects of Child Abuse

Studies show there are many problems associated with abuse. Many end up with psychiatric problems, developmental problems, disorganized attachment disorder, anxiety, depression, acting out and some even develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Later in life, many develop health issues such as chronic head, abdominal, pelvic or muscular pain which is unidentifiable through all medical procedures. There are lifetime effects set upon a child who has been abused. They develop a lack of trust, and have difficulties developing relationships. The abused has core feelings of being worthless or damaged. Emotional abuse severely damages a child's mental health and their social development. Sexual abuse creates a feeling of guilt or shame for the child. The earlier abuse is caught the best success for a child's recovery.

What causes many to abuse children?

Some may abuse because they were abused. They have learned what they lived. Some abusers are products of domestic violence. They have seen one of their own parents abuse the other. One of the main causes is substance abuse (cocaine, alcohol, and heroin). Someone who abuses drugs or alcohol doesn't make good parenting decisions. They are unable to care for the child and control dangerous impulses.Other abusers have a history of mental illness which clouds there judgement and effects their abiltiy to make decisions. Studies have shown a lack of parenting skills, and stress or lack of support from family members will lead to abuse, as well. Studies show unemployment or financial difficulties are associated with increased rates of abuse. In fact in 2009, CBS news reported child abuse increased during the recession. They used the inability to cope, and taking their own failures out on others. Studies also show a strong correlation between alcohol abuse and physical abuse, as well as a correlation between cocaine abuse and sexual abuse. No matter what the cause, there is no excuse for hurting an innocent child. We have got to vigil, watch for the signs, and react to their cry for help.

Warning Signs


  • Poor hygiene
  • Left unsupervisored or allowed to play in unsafe environment
  • Late or missing school frequently
  • Untreated illness or injuries
  • Clothes do not fit, dirty, or wrong type of weather

Physical Abuse

  • Frequent injuries (Unexplained cuts, bruises, or broken bones)
  • Watchful and alert, nervousness
  • Shies from touch, flinches at sudden movements
  • Afraid to go home
  • Pattern of injuries with mark of belt or hand
  • Wears inappropriate clothing to cover injuries (such as turtleneck or long sleeves in hot weather)
  • Displays knowledge or interest of sexual acts inappropriate for age
  • Seductive behavior
  • Won't change clothes in front of other
  • An STD or pregnancy-especially under age of fourteen
  • Runs away from home
  • Trouble walking or sitting
  • Strongly avoids a specific person

Emotional Abuse

  • Acts inappropriately
  • Extremes in behavior (in either direction, withdrawn or overly aggressive)
  • Withdrawn, fearful, anxious of doing something wrong
  • No attachment to caregiver

What should you do to help?

  1. Look for the signs
  2. Be careful if talking to an abused child
  3. Always remain calm
  4. Avoid denial
  5. Don't interrogate
  6. Reassure they did nothing wrong
  7. Safety first

If you suspect or know of a child being abused, contact the proper law enforcement agencies. You are the one who hears their cry. Help them but taking a stand against child abuse.

© 2010 Cindi


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