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Preventing and Stopping Child Abuse

Updated on September 19, 2017
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty has advanced degrees in preventive medicine and health psychology, with 35 years of work in allergy and other autoimmune treatment.

Who would want to harm a child?
Who would want to harm a child? | Source

Definitions and Signs of Maltreatment

I have worked with programs designed to prevent child abuse and other forms of abuse for all ages and genders for over 20 years and will list some signs and indications of abuse here.

But first, to answer your question quickly, if a child is left outside without supervision or protection for an hour and becomes extremely sunburned, insect-bitten, attacked by animals, or frostbitten and was not of an age to help himself, then it is legally considered child abuse.

In some Scandinavian countries, babies are set out on the front porch in their strollers, dressed in snowsuits, scarves, hats, gloves, socks and boots, and covered with a wool blanket and left for awhile with the parents in the house, in order to breathe cold air in the fall and winter. It is their customer. However, this was done by an immigrant family in Ohio several years ago and the police knocked on heir door and asked them what they thought they were doing. The incident ended up in the newspaper and the family maintained that there was nothing wrong with it, but the police told them not to do it again. I don't know the end result.

In my state, if the child is older than an elementary school age of about 10 or 11, county child services agencies will often not intervene unless the child is being used in human trafficking or photographed in illicit child photos.

I was involved in performing a crackdown on child pornography several years ago among some reputable martial arts instructors that my task force was able to stop. The work continues.

Help me -- report child abuse.
Help me -- report child abuse.

US Department of Health and Human Services Child Abuse Statistics for 2005

The Child Victims

899,000 children in the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico were victims of abuse or neglect.

The increase of approximately 20,000 victims in 2005 over 2004, is largely due to the addition of data from Alaska and Puerto for the firs time.

  • Children age birth to 3 years had the highest rate of victimization at 16.5 per 1,000 children;
  • Over one-half of the victims were 7 years old or younger;
  • A little over one-half of the child victims were girls;
  • Approximately one-half of the victims were White; one-quarter African-American; and 17.4% Hispanic.

Types of Abuse Reported

  • Over 60 percent (62.8%) of child victims suffered neglect;
  • 16.6% of the victims suffered physical abuse;
  • About 10% of the victims suffered sexual abuse;
  • Less than 10 percent of the victims suffered emotional abuse.

How Many Children Died in 2005 from Abuse?

  • 1,460 children died from child abuse or neglect;
  • The national rate of child deaths from abuse was about 2 deaths per 100,000 children;
  • Over 40 percent (42.2%) of child deaths were from to neglect; physical abuse also was a major cause of child fatalities;
  • Over three-quarters (76.6%) of the children who died due to child abuse and neglect were younger than 4 years old;
  • Infant boys under 1 year had the highest rate of abuse fatalities at 1.7 per 100,000 children.


Child Neglect is Abuse

Physical Signs

  • Poor hygiene. The child no longer cares about cleanliness and grooming, or even new clothing. He or she may have only dirty old clothing to wear, along with only dirty bed linens. The child maybe sleeping on a floor, even a wet basement floor.
  • Bed sores and other skin lesions.
  • Squinting. Parents fail to have the child's eyes tested and may say that glasses are a waste of money.
  • Missing clothing like having no underwear or socks; or having no coat or shoes in the winter.
  • Untreated injury or illness. Child may say that he is never allowed to see a doctor, go to the school nurse, or ask for help. She may have long term infections or skin lesions that will not heal.
  • No immunizations. Parents fail to take the child to see a doctor for both wellness care and treatment.
  • Prolonged exposure to the elements, as in excessive sunburn, insect bites, colds, frostbite.
  • Height and weight are significantly below average. The child may be suffering from malnutrition.

Behavioral Signs

  • School attendance is spotty.
  • Chronic hunger.
  • Tired all the time.
  • Begging for leftovers.
  • Taking on adult responsibilities.
  • Reporting that no parent is at home or no food is in the house.


Signs of Emotional Abuse

Physical Signs

  • Eating disorders.
  • Constipation.
  • Strange skin color: pale, sallow, greenish.
  • Speech disorders like stuttering.
  • Developmental delay in speech or motor skills.
  • Weight or height below average.
  • Flat places or bald spots on the head.
  • Nervous disorders like rashes, tics, ulcers.

Behavioral Signs

  • Habits like biting, head-bagging, jabbering, rocking.
  • Cruel behavior toward animals and younger children.
  • Bed wetting.
  • Mood swings.
  • Loss of speech ability.
  • Toe-walking, stumbling, bumping into things. Inability to climb.


Signs of Physical Abuse

Physical Signs

  • Arm or leg joint at odd angles, suggesting dislocation or fracture without treatment.
  • Patches of missing hair, suggesting being pulled or dragged by the hair.
  • Unexplained bruises or raised welts on scalp, face, throat, upper arms, buttocks, thighs or lower back - or anywhere -- in unusual patterns or shapes that look like belt buckle, electric cord, hand print, etc. on an infant in various stages of healing. A child might disappear from school for a few days and return with bruises.
  • Unexplained burns, especially on the palms, soles of the feet, abdomen, buttocks. Hot water immersion burns from the toes to up above the ankles or form the fingers up to the elbow, where the arm or leg has been held down in scalding water. Any burns on buttocks or genitals. burns over the face and upper body where scaling water has been thrown onto the child.
  • Rope burns or burns from electrical cord or curtain cord tie-up. Raw skin around the mouth from duct tape.
  • Infected burns from lack of treatment.

Behavioral Signs

  • Behavioral extremes -- withdrawal, aggression, regression to babyish behaviors, depression, histrionics.
  • Inappropriate fear of parent, caretaker, relative, neighbor.
  • Antisocial behaviors -- substance abuse, truancy, fear of going home, promiscuity, fire setting, assault, property damage.
  • Unbelievable explanation for injuries.
  • Lies unusually still while continually scanning the environment.
  • Unwarranted shyness and dislike of physical touch.

Abuse and neglect can cause nightmares in a child.
Abuse and neglect can cause nightmares in a child. | Source

Signs of Sexual Abuse

Physical Signs

  • Ripped or stained underwear.
  • Physical complaints that may include pain, genital irritation, vomiting.
  • Frequent unexplained sore throats when other family members are fine.
  • Yeast and urinary infections.
  • Bruises or bleeding of the genitals or anus.
  • Constipation.
  • Difficulty walking or sitting
  • Sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Pregnancy.

Behavioral Signs

  • Extreme anger; unprovoked angry outbursts.
  • Regression to bed wetting, thumb-sucking, fear of the dark or the bathroom.
  • Nightmares and insomnia.
  • Hiding in closets or behind long draperies.
  • Refusal to undress or insisting upon wearing several layers of clothing.
  • Poor grades in school.
  • Promiscuity; age-inappropriate knowledge of sex; seductive behaviors.

© 2007 Patty Inglish MS


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