Defining and Recognizing Child Abuse:
Physical abuse: Non-accidental physical injury of a child inflicted by a parent/guardian/caretaker that can range from minor harm to serious injuries. Also includes actions that create further harm to the child.
What you may see/hear: If a child is physically abused you may see frequent and unexplained bruising or injuries. An enhanced reaction to a sudden movement toward the child, such as a child overly afraid of the parent’s reaction to misbehavior.
Physical neglect: Withholding, or failing to provide, adequate survival needs such as food, shelter, clothing, hygiene, medical care, education, or supervision and is impacting the child’s physical, mental or emotional health.
What you may see/hear: Physical neglect can be hard to judge, sometimes what you see is the poor judgment on the parents or the results of poverty and a family’s struggle to make ends meet. But a very young child left at home alone regularly, if you know a serious illness is being ignored or being consistently inadequately dressed for the weather.
Sexual abuse: When a parent of caretaker commits a sexual offense against a child, or allows a sexual offense to be committed, such as rape, sodomy, engaging a child in social activity, or promoting a child’s sexual performances. Any kind of sexual activity with a child, not just physical contact.
What you may see/hear: Sexual behavior that is way beyond what is expected for the child's age, younger children might have unusual difficulty with toilet habits, pain, itching, bruises or bleeding in the genital area. Many children who are sexually abused never exhibit any physical signs, behavioral signs are more common. Withdrawal from family, school, or friends, reverting to more childish or infantile behavior and/or extreme anger or mood swings.
Common signs of a stress/ trauma reaction:
-Physical signs: Fatigue, chest pain, weakness, fainting, rapid breathing, and profuse sweating
-Cognitive signs: Blaming someone, confusion, poor attention, memory problems, hyper vigilance, and disturbed thinking
-Emotional signs: Anxiety, guilt, grief, denial, emotional shock, and inappropriate emotional response
-Behavioral signs: Change in activity, change in speech patterns, withdrawal/isolation, emotional outbursts, nonspecific bodily complaints, loss or increase of appetite
Potential problems that childhood sexual abuse can cause in adulthood: Shame, feeling of guilt or dirtiness when they have sexual feelings because they feel they caused the abuse when they were a child, irregulated emotional responses, difficulties in relationships, disconnected feeling, and a variety of other emotional, psychological, and physical long-lasting effects if left untreated.
- 1 in 10 children will be a victim of sexual abuse by their 18th birthday
- 90% of child sexual abuse victims know their abuser
- 20% of children are abused before the age of 8
- Only 4-8% of child sexual abuse reports are fabricated
- A common myth is that child sexual abuse is perpetrated by strangers and pedophiles. The reality is that 93% of children who are victims of sexual abuse know their abuser, less than 10% of sexually abused children are abused by a stranger.
- 96% of people who sexually abuse children are male, 76% are married men, and 76.8% percent of people who sexually abuse children are adults
- Abusers tend to utilize a manipulative process called “grooming” in order to gain the family and victim’s trust. Grooming behaviors include: Special attention, outings, gifts, isolating the child from others, filling the child’s unmet needs, filling needs and roles within the family, treating the child as if he or she is older, becoming increasingly touchy, and use of secrecy, blame, and threats to maintain control.
- Kids today are being exposed to highly sexualized messages and influences at earlier and earlier ages. Before adolescence, the typical child will have been exposed to thousands and thousands of these messages. (Makes it imperative that parents start discussing explicit aspects of sex when their kids are still young-which will also create more acceptance, openness, and honesty between child and parent)