April is National Child Abuse Awareness Month. Child abuse is commonly thought to be an act of physical violence against a child. Although physical abuse is a common form of child abuse, there are other types of child abuse as well. People tend to forget that emotional, sexual, and even neglectful acts are also forms of abuse. Child abuse has many different harmful effects on children. Abuse can leave bruising, damage a child mentally or emotionally, and even result in death.
Abuse between parents can also be detrimental to a child mentally and emotionally. Abuse between parents can be physical, emotional, or mental and is capable of causing serious negative effects on their children. Every year it is estimated that about one million children are abused, and the abuse of four of those children results in death every day. Abuse against children can be committed by parents, family members, family friends, and sometimes even strangers.
It is incredibly important to report child abuse if it is suspected. Most children suffering from abuse do not speak out due to fear or love of the abuser. If you are questioning that a child may be being abused, there are several signs to watch for. Many children suffering from abuse may not always have physical marks on their skin, but may show they are hurting through other behaviors and actions. Children suffering from emotional abuse, or who view emotional abuse may be withdrawn, aggressive, unattached to parents, or may not act appropriately for their age.
Neglect is one of the hardest forms of abuse to detect and is the most common form of abuse. Some signs of neglect include: unclean appearance, unfitted clothing, bad hygiene, unaddressed illnesses, extremely thin or obese weight, and/or children left alone or unattended, often for long periods of time.
Like neglect, sexual abuse may be more difficult to detect. Several warning signs of sexual abuse may include: trouble walking or sitting, displaying improper sexual actions, not wanting to change clothing around others, or runing away from home.
Aside from the immediate damaging effects of abuse on children, children who are abused or live in an abusive home often suffer long-term side effects throughout the remainder of their lives. In the years following abuse, children may suffer from trust issues, an unhealthy self image, destructive or suicidal behavior, drug and alcohol dependency, depression, and sleeping problems, just to name a few.
Children of all ages, race, cultures, and socio-economic status suffer from abuse every year. Some children are so young they could not voice their abuse even if they wanted to. It is also important to remember it is not always abuse directly inflicted upon a child that does the only damage; abuse between parents can be just as destructive to a child’s development and state of mind.
If you or someone you know is suffering from abuse, please call HELP of Door County, Inc. at 1.800.91.HELP.1 or 920.743.8818. Abuse comes in many different forms and it is everyone’s responsibility to advocate against it. Please, for those who do not have a voice and for those choosing their own voice there is HELP available.
This article is brought to you in part by the Door County Coordinated Community Response (CCR) to Domestic Violence Team.