The incidence of child abuse in the USA and other countries have reached epidemic proportions, affecting millions of children every year.
What is Child Abuse?
Generally speaking, child abuse refers to any act of cruelty (or neglect/failure to act) on the part of a parent or caretaker that is directed at a child and results in physical, mental or emotional harm. Child abuse typically falls into four main categories: Acronym- P.E.N.S
• Physical abuse – physical injury inflicted upon the child regardless of intent
• Emotional abuse – pattern of offensive behavior, often in the form of verbal remarks, which results in impaired emotional and psychological development
• Neglect – failure to provide basic physical, medical, educational, and/or emotional needs
• Sexual abuse or exploitation – includes but is not limited to incest, rape, indecent exposure, fondling, and forcing prostitution or pornography
Recognizing Child Abuse
Children who have been mistreated rarely report their suffering. Some children fear they will be blamed, while others fear that no one will believe them.
There are signs, however, that parents and other adults can look for to determine if a child has suffered from abuse including various physical or behavioral changes.
The following are some common signs of abuse :
Unexplained physical injuries such as bruises, burns, and fractures
Fearful behavior such as nightmares, unusual fears, or attempts to run away.
Sudden changes in self-confidence.
Headaches or stomach aches with no medical cause.
Children who have been sexually abused may also experience abdominal pain, bedwetting, urinary tract infection, or genital pain.
Child Abuse is a Crime
Child abuse laws exist to protect children. Laws governing child abuse vary from state-to-state. However, child abuse is a crime in all states.
No adult has the right to abuse a child under his or her care, including parents, legal guardians, babysitters, or other supervising adults.
If you suspect that your child or a child you know has been abused, there are a number of things you can do to help. You should immediately report your suspicions to the proper authorities (pediatrician or local child protective agency).
Delaying the report could potentially make matters worse, especially if the abuse continues unchecked.