Nearly 200,000 children are reported as abused or neglected each year in Texas. Every day, about four children die in the U.S. because of abuse or neglect, most of them babies or toddlers. For every incident of child abuse or neglect that gets reported, it’s estimated that two others go unreported.
What are some of the myths about child abuse
Myth 1: It’s only abuse if it’s violent or sexual.
Fact: Physical and sexual abuse are just two types of child abuse. Neglect and emotional abuse can be damaging also, and since they are more subtle, others are less likely to intervene. Neglect is by far the most common form of child abuse, accounting for more than 60% of all cases.
Myth 2: Only drunks or dope heads (bad people) abuse children.
Fact: While it might be comforting to say that only “bad people” abuse children, that generalization is not correct. About 10% of babies are born to drug-using mothers. Of kids who have a parent who uses drugs, one in 13 is physically abused regularly. Not all abusers are people that we would characterize as “bad.” Many abusers have been victims of abuse themselves, and don’t know any other way to parent. Someone who appears outwardly to be a “good” person can be a child abuser.
Myth 3: Child abuse doesn’t happen in “good” families.
Fact: Child abuse doesn’t only happen in poor families or bad neighborhoods. It crosses all racial, ethnic, economic, and cultural lines. Sometimes, families who outwardly seem to have everything together are hiding a different story behind closed doors.
Myth 4: Only strangers in trench coats commit child abuse.
Fact: While strangers do commit child abuse, most child abusers are family members or others close to the family.
Yes, Child Abuse Prevention Month is a really big deal because child abuse is a really big problem. What can you do? Educate yourself about child abuse. Contact our local CPS office (Department of Family and Protective Services) or your local child advocacy center. They will have information about the definitions and signs of child abuse. Get involved! Help us prevent child abuse in a personal way.
National Child Abuse Hotline
Tips for talking to an abused child
- Avoid denial and remain calm. A common reaction to news as unpleasant and shocking as child abuse is denial. However, if you display denial to a child, or show shock or disgust at what they are saying, the child may be afraid to continue and will shut down. As hard as it may be, remain as calm and reassuring as you can.
- Don’t interrogate. Let the child explain to you in his or her own words what happened, but don’t interrogate the child or ask leading questions. This may confuse and fluster the child and make it harder for them to continue their story.
- Reassure the child that they did nothing wrong. It takes a lot for a child to come forward about abuse. Reassure him or her that you take what is said seriously, and that it is not the child’s fault.
- Safety comes first. If you feel that your safety or the safety of the child would be threatened if you try to intervene, leave it to the professionals. You may be able to provide more support later after the initial professional intervention.
Reporting child abuse and neglect
If you suspect a child is being abused, it’s critical to get them the help he or she needs. Reporting child abuse seems so official. Many people are reluctant to get involved in other families’ lives. Understanding some of the myths behind reporting may help put your mind at ease if you need to report child abuse:
- I don’t want to interfere in someone else’s family. The effects of child abuse are lifelong, affecting future relationships, self-esteem, and sadly putting even more children at risk of abuse as the cycle continues. Help break the cycle of child abuse.
- What if I break up someone’s home? The priority in child protective services is keeping children in the home. A child abuse report does not mean a child is automatically removed from the home – unless the child is clearly in danger. Support such as parenting classes, anger management or other resources may be offered first to parents if safe for the child.
- They will know it was me who called. Reporting is anonymous. In most states, you do not have to give your name when you report child abuse. The child abuser cannot find out who made the report of child abuse.
- It won’t make a difference what I have to say. If you have a gut feeling that something is wrong, it is better to be safe than sorry. Even if you don’t see the whole picture, others may have noticed as well, and a pattern can help identify child abuse that might have otherwise slipped through the cracks.
Sources: DoSomthingAboutIt.com and HelpGuide.org
If you would like Dr. Kay Trotter to come talk to your group or find out more about her counseling practice, you can contact her at: Kay@KayTrotter.com, 214-499-0396, or visit her web site http://www.KayTrotter.com.
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