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The Sad Truth about Child Abuse
In the year 1974, New York, a pregnant woman was claimed guilty for killing and murdering her two and a half year old daughter, whose body was covered with wounds and bruises.
Three years later, in Washington, a woman was charged for holding her nine year old daughter in a closet for four years, resulting in her being extremely underweight and malnourished (23 pounds, barely, if not, 3 feet in height). In the same household, the father was accused guilty of sexually abusing the older 13 year old daughter, resulting in pregnancy.
Child abuse is a sad but true thing that occurs in this world, hurting the future, our children.
What is Child Abuse?
Child abuse is when the behavior of a parent or caregiver results in actual harm of a child. This includes physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect.
- Physical abuse: Intentionally causing physical harm to a child.
- Emotional abuse: Any harm done to a child's emotional well-being
- Sexual abuse: Sexually assaulting a child or exposing a child to sexual material
- Neglect: Failure to provide the child basic needs (food, medical care)
What Causes Child Abuse?
- High expectations for the child
- The parent might have been abused as a child too, and thinks that the right way to bring up a child.
- Lack of parenting knowledge and skills
- Low self-esteem
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Ill health
Certain conditions can cause caregivers to neglect their children, too.
- Lack of education
- Inadequate housing
- Violence in the family
- No support from extended family
Caregivers abuse children for different reasons, but that does NOT make one more right than another.
Every year in the United States, more than 3 million child abuse reports are made.
Each report may include more than one child.
About 6.3 million children are reported to be abused annually, one of the worst numbers among modernized nations.
Four to five children in the United States die each day due to child abuse and neglect.
About 70% were two years old or younger. More than 80% were not even old enough for kindergarten.
Signs of Child Abuse
- Frequent and unexplained bruises, cuts, or welts in different stages of healing
- Refuses to change for gym
- Injuries have the shape of an implement (i.e. hand, belt)
- Always watchful, as if expecting something bad to happen
- Seems scared of going home
- Flinches from touch and sudden movements
- Abuses others/thinks hitting is acceptable
- The parent has an unconvincing or no explanation for injuries on child
- The parent describes the child in a negative way, i.e. "evil"
- The parent claims to harshly "discipline" the child
- Extremely frightened or withdrawn about doing something wrong
- Extremes in behavior: (for example) extremely passive, extremely aggressive
- Is either too adult-like (taking care of other children) or too childish (throwing tantrums, sucking thumb)
- Distant from parent/caregiver
- Attempted suicide
- Caregiver openly rejects the child
- Difficulty walking or sitting
- Doesn't change for gym or participate in physical activities
- Has nightmares and bed-wetting problems
- Sudden change of appetite
- Shows inappropriate amount of sexual knowledge
- Becomes pregnant
- Frequent absences in school
- Steals or begs for money or food
- Lacks medical and dental care, vaccines, or glasses
- Dirty and has body odor
- Thin, as if starved
- Inappropriate clothing for weather
- Claims to be at home alone for a long time
The Line between Discipline and Child Abuse
The line between discipline and child abuse is very blurry, and is often misplaced. So when exactly does discipline become child abuse?
Parents are more likely to abuse their children when punishing out of anger.
For example, you are angry at your three year old daughter for breaking a lamp and you slap her on her face. Not too hard, but because she is a three year old, the force knocks her down the stairs. You bring her to the hospital, the doctors see the bruise on her face, and they call CPS.
You never meant to hurt your daughter but you did mean to discipline her. It was a first time occurrence and you had always been a loving parent. But the thing is, any "non-accidental injury" from a parent is counted as physical abuse.
The point is that as long as you:
- Punish your child when you are in control.
- Punish only because you care.
- Punish appropriately.
- Punish while keeping your child's health in consideration.
- Punish and never leave marks.
then you are disciplining your child.
Do you consider slapping a child on the face as child abuse?
Results of Child Abuse
The worst consequence of child abuse is death.
But, child abuse can also leave lasting scars, both emotional and physical ones.
Here are some emotional scars as an effect of child abuse:
- hard time concentrating
- difficulty sleeping
- low self-esteem
Child abuse can also leave physical problems:
- scars that do not fade
- diseases transmitted sexually
Adults abused as a child on average live twenty years less than others. They also have a higher risk of mental health issues, drug addiction, and related problems.
Studies show that about two-thirds of the people in treatment for drug abuse were maltreated as children.
Children who were abused are 9 times more likely to participate in criminal activity.
Who are mandated reporters of child abuse?
It varies from state to state, but certain people who work with children are mandated reporters of child abuse. If they suspect child abuse, they must report it immediately. These include:
- Childcare custodians (teachers, daycare workers, etc.)
- Employees of child protective agencies (police, CPS)
- Officers (peace officers, patrol officers, probation officers, custodial officers, animal control officers, humane society officers)
Failure as a mandated reporter to report suspected child abuse is counted as a misdemeanor.
Help stop child abuse!
Every child matters.
If you suspect child abuse or neglect, please call the police or Child Protective Services immediately.