One hundred years from now it will not matter what kind of car I drove, what kind of house I lived in, how much money I had in my bank account, nor what my clothes looked like. But the world may be a little better because I was important in the life of a child.
- Forest E. Witcraft

About Child Abuse

What is Physical Child Abuse?

Child physical abuse and neglect occur when a child’s physical health or welfare is harmed or threatened with harm by the acts or omissions of his or her parent(s) or caregiver(s). Harm refers to infliction of physical pain, resulting in injury, disfigurement or impairment of any bodily organ or death.

Neglect, or "harm through omission", refers to a failure to provide the child with adequate food, clothing, shelter, education, supervision or health care, providing the parent or guardian is financially able to do so.

What Is Child Sexual Abuse?

Child sexual abuse is the exploitation or coercion of a child. Child sexual abuse involves a continuum of behavior that ranges from verbal, non-physical abuse to forcible touching offenses. It can range from a single encounter with an exhibitionist, to confusing occasional fondling by a casual acquaintance, to years of ongoing abuse by a relative or family member, to rape and/or exploitation through prostitution and pornography.

Who are the Offenders?

Child sexual abusers are likely to be people we know, and could even care about. Most child abusers are fathers, stepparents, grandparents and other family members. Older children and peers also abuse children. Offenders may be neighbors, babysitters, ministers, teachers, coaches, or anyone else who has close contact with our children. Eighty to ninety percent of all cases include an offender who is someone the child knows or trusts. In approximately half of these cases, the trusted adult is a father or stepfather.

Recognize the Signs of Child Physical Abuse

  • Burns, bites, bruises, broken bones, or physical marks that are unexplained, shrugged off, or accompanied by bizarre explanations
  • Acts scared at the approach or closeness of adults
  • Exhibits self-destructive behaviors
  • Exhibits extreme withdrawn and/or aggressive behaviors
  • Arrives at school early or stays late as if afraid to be at home
  • Wears extra clothing to cover his/her body

Recognize the Signs of Child Sexual Abuse

  • Seems threatened by physical contact or closeness by another person
  • Inappropriate or excessive sexual touching or play
  • Premature understanding of sex
  • Overly curious and/or frequently talks about sex
  • Drawings that show sexual acts or other pre-occupation with sex
  • Pain, swelling or itching in the genital area
  • Relapse into bedwetting and frequent nightmares
  • Frequent urinary or yeast infections in girls
  • Exhibiting self-harming behaviors
  • Sudden weight change
  • Difficulty walking or sitting
  • Underclothing stained by excessive discharge or blood
  • Other behaviors or attitudes that are unusual for your child

Be aware that in some children there are no signs whatsoever

Respond to Child Abuse

  • The most important thing is to believe your child. Many children who are not believed will not risk telling a trusted adult again.
  • Remain calm and let the child tell his/ her story.
  • Don’t interrogate the child – let them tell their story in their own words.
  • Reassure the child that it is not their fault and that they did nothing wrong.
  • Report the incident to the appropriate authority where professionals will provide the child a safe environment in which to talk to specially trained adults. This lessens the trauma experienced by the child.

Prevent Child Abuse

  • Eliminate or reduce one on one adult/child interactions
  • Teach your children about their bodies, about what abuse is, and when age appropriate about sex
  • Talk to your child about “safe touches” and “unsafe touches”
  • Teach your children to say “no” to any unwanted touches, even if it is from someone they know
  • Closely monitor children’s Internet access and use parental controls
  • Participate in your child’s activities and get to know their friends
  • Pay attention when someone shows greater than normal interest in your child
  • Ask questions when your child does not want to be with someone or when you notice behavior or attitude changes