No one wants to think about child abuse, but it is a reality. April is an opportunity to shed light on this very serious and far-reaching problem as nearly 700,000 children are abused in the U.S. annually. If we just take the time to help figure out how to prevent child abuse, we can change lives, not only of the victims but of their friends and families and our communities as a whole.
Defining Child Abuse
While it would seem logical that abuse is abuse and neglect is neglect, sadly this is not the case. Definitions can vary from state to state. In 2010, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) was amended to define child abuse and neglect as, at a minimum:
- “Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse, or exploitation”; or
- “An act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm”
States can implement definitions and regulations that are more stringent than federal CAPTA guidelines and are usually divided between civil and criminal statutes.
Signs of Child Abuse
Physical signs of child abuse can sometimes be easy to spot, but sometimes not. A manipulative abuser learns to inflict physical harm where it can be hidden from others like social workers, teachers, and even doctors.
Emotional abuse and child neglect can go undetected and lead to years of dysfunction and torment. Some signals to watch for include:
- Sudden changes in behavior
- Poor performance at school
- Unaddressed medical issues
- Difficulty concentrating
- Exaggerated startle response
- Extreme wariness/withdrawal
These are just a few examples. Observation and communication are key ways to prevent child abuse.
How to Prevent Child Abuse
Child abuse, child neglect, and maltreatment can be prevented through education and guidance. Some must be done within the family household, and some can be implemented by someone outside of the household. Some ways to prevent child abuse include:
- Help a friend, neighbor, or relative who is a parent
- Develop a parenting resource center and support groups
- Reach out for help as a parent when you start to feel overwhelmed
- Volunteer with a child abuse prevention program
- Report suspected abuse or neglect in an appropriate manner
Contact Dallas Behavioral
Too often child abuse and neglect occur because parents and other caretakers are struggling with mental health issues of their own. If you feel like your life, and your emotions and actions, are getting out of control, contact us for a free and confidential assessment. Dallas Behavioral Healthcare Hospital is dedicated to helping our community and is available 24/7.