Tuesday, April 1, 2008

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month

April has been designated National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Many organizations committed to safeguarding the well-being of children advise that public awareness and early intervention are key to spotting and preventing child abuse. The community should not feel any hesitation to intervene on abusive relationships, for the sake of the individual and the community. Intentional, aggressive behavior from one; that endangers the well-being and physical safety of another, is not a private matter; it is everybody's business.
Child abuse can be one or a multiple of the following forms of abuse: physical, sexual, emotional, verbal or neglect. It can be directly delivered as in name-calling, ignoring, terrorizing, over criticism, corruption or, by witholding attention. It can be indirectly shown or unintentionally delivered like in the case of children who witness domestic violence. Repeated actions from an abusive parent or caregiver leads to a child feeling worthless, unloved, damaged or unattractive, unwanted or, valued only if the child serves another's needs. Verbal abuse is like "hitting a child with words."
Child abuse has its social costs as it can delay the child's development or cause mental and emotional disorders. Though physical injuries heal over time, emotional abuse can last forever. The emotionally-abused requires counseling for support and to minimize the ill effects the individual's actions may create on society. Parental verbal abuse can lead to physical aggression in children. The verbally-abused child can grow to be a self-critical adult prone to depression and anxiety.
What are the signs of an abused child? A child may be verbally agressive and may break or throw things during angry outbursts. Withdrawn behavior or rocking and curled in a fetal position while hiding under furniture, and urinating in places other than the toilet are common signs. A child may equate negative things they hear about themselves as the reason for why something goes wrong. Physical injuries such as broken bones or teeth, burns and bruises that are unlikely to be the result of accidents may have been caused by a physically violent adult.
Should a child confide in you about feeling unsafe and unloved; or if you suspect that a child is in an abusive relationship, Childhelp®, a non-profit organization committed to helping victims of child abuse and neglect, offers the following guidelines:
Ask leading questions
Make promises
Notify the parents or the caretaker
Provide a safe environment (be comforting, welcoming and a good listener)
Tell the child it was not his/her fault
Listen carefully
Document the child's exact quotes
Be supportive, not judgmental
Know your limits
Tell the truth and make no promises
Ask ONLY the following questions as asking any additional questions may contaminate a case:
What happened?
Who did this to you?
Where were you when this happened?
When did this happen?
Call your local law enforcement agency • Call your local Child Protective Services Agency • Call the 24-Hour Childhelp® National Child Abuse Hotline to be connected with an appropriate agency. The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline, 1-800-4-A-CHILD, is dedicated to the prevention of child abuse and is staffed 24 hours a day.

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