Did you know that April is Child Abuse Prevention month? It’s a topic that many of us do not like to address because it’s very harsh reality to accept. But, unfortunately, it is a reality that affects an average of six million children annually. That’s a staggering number!
The brain develops in response to experiences with caregivers, family and the community quickly during the early developmental stages of infancy and childhood. Development is directly linked to the quality and quantity of those experiences. Repeated exposure to stressful or abusive events as well as neglect can affect the brain’s stress response and over time a child may react as if danger is always present in their environment regardless of actual circumstances.
Awareness of the signs of child abuse is your first step in saving a child.
Here are some key signs to look for:
- Failure to thrive socially or academically
- Learning and/or Speech disorders
- Delayed physical, emotional or intellectual development
- Discomfort with physical contact or difficulty connecting with others
- Lags in physical, emotional or intellectual development
- Behavior extremes, such as appearing overly compliant and passive or very demanding and aggressive.
- Increased fear or avoidance of a specific person and/or situation
- Difficulty expressing thoughts and feelings
- Changes in eating and sleeping patterns
- Anxiety and/or excessive worrying
- Low self-esteem
- Uncharacteristic obedience or perfectionism
- Strong feelings of shame or guilt
- Programmed statements or behaviors
- Knowledge of or interest in sexual behaviors that are not age appropriate
- Bruises, welts or swelling
- Sprains or fractures
- Lacerations or abrasions
- Frequent physical complaints, such as stomachaches and headaches
- Difficulty in walking or sitting
- Torn, stained or bloody clothing
- Pain or itching in the genital area; bruises or bleeding in the external genital area
- Sexually transmitted infections or diseases
Research has found that children exposed to any form of abuse, if left unaddressed or ignored, are at an increased risk for emotional and behavioral problems throughout their life and into adulthood.
Depending on your role in the child’s life, you may or not be privy to prevention but turning a blind eye to the signs of child abuse is never the path to choose. Identifying the signs may be an uncomfortable position to be depending on your relationship with the child, but you can protect your position by being anonymous. There are many sources that can help you help a child, such as Child Help’s national hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) or you can do an internet search for sources in your area.
We encourage you to visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to learn more.