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Preventing and Stopping Child Abuse

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

Patty uses her degrees in Preventive Medicine, Psychology, and TKM in research and treatment for public and private health agencies.

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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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      12 months ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      @Joeline - Please give me some specifics about the situation.

    • profile image


      12 months ago

      What about if a very cruel person makes a child believe they are being abused when they are not. How can the innocent parents prove otherwise

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Thanks for thye encouraging words, Pamela99. I hope we can all become more aware of the signs and what to do when we see them. Merry Christmas!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      5 years ago from Sunny Florida

      I really like the list of things to look for because it is so thorough. The average person would never link a few of these things to child abuse. Very useful information.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Thank you for your confimration, Michele. You're a parent that is involved form the start, for the lang haul. That's what parentingt is. Too many today have a child and set it in a corner as if there is nothing to do. We can make a lot of changes if we can convince others that parenting is pretty much a full-time job for both parents - for a single parent, it can be harder. Thanks for your comments!

    • Michele Travis profile image

      Michele Travis 

      5 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

      Thank you for writing this. People need to pay more attention to children, not just turn their heads away. Sharing this information and making it available is wonderful. More people need to know about it.

      You are a wonderful author.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Thank you Lord, De Cross; we can change negatives when we work together to do so!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Ericdierker - I wish you every success in your ministry and keep you in prayer.

    • Lord De Cross profile image

      Joseph De Cross 

      5 years ago from New York

      Great update and this info is priceless. Thanks for writing this Patty!

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      5 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      It seems that child abuse is a symptom of a disease. The disease of depravity. It is so sad that the largest organization capable of making a real impact on depravity has it's own problems in that regard. I will energize my ministry to pay more attention to young parents. Thanks for the kick in the pants. I am good at opening closed closet doors.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      6 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Thanks for your thoughts; many of us share them with you.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I am so saddened and outraged with the thought of any harm done to children and animals. Everyday I pray for our children and our youth and animals who are at the mercy of such heinous people. We need to keep our eyes, ears open and be the voice for these innocents. There should be some sort of screening and documentation done prior to having children or animals with constant checks and follow-ups. (Just thinking of a solution to this huge problem in our society) Let's keep our children safe and be involved with your neighbors once again. And seek help, and give help to families who may seem in distress, and don't give up on them. Sorry this is long its just very dear to my heart topic.

    • sligobay profile image


      7 years ago from east of the equator

      Hi Patti, I linked your hub as a resource in my new Hub. Happy Holidays!

    • profile image

      Who Killed Kelsey? 

      8 years ago

      Kelsey Smith-Briggs has become the face of child abuse across the country. Learn more about how the child welfare system failed the beautiful two-year-old girl. Two television journalists team up to break the Kelsey Smith-Briggs case wide open. For more information on the upcoming book you can become a Facebook fan of Who Killed Kelsey?

    • susanlang profile image


      8 years ago

      A very good outline! Be glad in knowing that because of your words here, a child going to bed tonight will not be abused tomarrow! I just wish we could save them all.

    • Loki_ profile image


      8 years ago

      You have done a wonderful job with this information. Thank you for doing your part in helping people to become more aware of this crucial problem and stressing the importance of reporting abuse.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      9 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Thanks for all teh comments.

      Mina - congratulations for doing that good work! I look forward to one day reading it.

    • Mina Lincoln profile image

      Mina Lincoln 

      9 years ago from Arlington, Texas

      Yes it is horrible. It WAS horrible. Thank God, I am now a SURVIVOR and also an Advocate FOR the safety, lives and Rights of Children.

      Am currently working on a book dedicated to the disturbing reality of our world's broken, BREAKING children.

      Somewhere, at this very moment a child is being emotionally, physically, and sexually abused. Inside this next hour a child WILL die because of this tragedy.

    • Jesus_saves_us_7 profile image


      9 years ago from Seeking Salvation

      great hub. it is horrible what children go through.

    • tinyteddy profile image


      10 years ago from INDIA


    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      10 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      You're right Whitney08. And after the kids are in junior high school/middle school, little is done unless they are involved as victims in child porn.

    • Whitney05 profile image


      10 years ago from Georgia

      I wish that more could be done. Honestly. I do realize that a good is done, but I think a lot of child abuse cases slip through the cracks. :-(

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      10 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      It's an ongoing battle to overcome obstacles to educate everyone about what exactly is abuse and how to prevent it -- And to help those that have siuffered it as well as those that do it. I think abusers must be miserable - this does not excuse their behaviors, but they cannot be happy, I think.

    • profile image

      Mary Gold 

      10 years ago

      Most people today still do not recognize abuse or even want to admit that it exists. In some towns, the police do not want to be bothered with the paperwork when a report is made. I am a therapist and under the duty to report law, so I have to report all instances of child abuse that I encounter.

      I reproted a famly several years ago for sex abuse iof children in one suburb and the police called me and threated me with a 4th degree misdemeanor until I told them I am under the duty to report. They quickly got off the phone. Three of the policemen were fired soon after, because they were driving cruisers to the high school, getting behind young girls driving home, pulling them over and forcing them to have sex after threatening the girls with jail. These three officers forced the girls to drive to their own homes, where the police followed them in and raped them. After the firings, rthe story was buried.

      Abuse does exist.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      11 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      You're welcome! I'll do a Hub on other abuse soon...

    • Whitney05 profile image


      11 years ago from Georgia

      Wow! Great info. Thanks

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      11 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Thanks Daniel, that's a good observation. There are certainly a lot of misunderstandings. Another problem is that some people don't know what constitutes abusive behavior - a mother at a local rec center kept hitting her kids in the head - hard - when they didn't obey her quickly enough and she was surprised when the piolice were called. She didn;t see anything wrong with it.

    • Daniel Greenfield profile image

      Daniel Greenfield 

      11 years ago

      immigrant communities raise some tricky issues when it comes to children, I've had some experiences in that regard myself

      some things that are done are genuinely physically abusive

      but a lot of practices are simply taken the wrong way by americans, it isn't limited only to immigrants, the case of the french tourist in new york who left her stroller outside the resteurant window comes to mind


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