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
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. Please visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to learn more.