What Is Child Abuse?
Child abuse is a serious problem in our country and one that affects thousands of children each day nationwide. According to data collected by Prevent Child Abuse America, in 2000 nearly three million reports of child abuse were made to child protective agencies. In 62% of these cases, the information provided in the report was sufficient to prompt an investigation. As a result of these investigations, approximately 879,000 children were found to have been victims of abuse or neglect. And most tragic of all, an average of three children die each day as a result of child abuse or neglect.
The impact of abuse is far greater than its immediate, visible effects. Abuse and neglect are associated with short and long-term consequences that may include brain damage, developmental delays, learning disorders, problems forming healthy relationships, aggressive behavior, and depression. In addition, survivors of child abuse may be at greater risk for problems later in life, such as failure to achieve in school, drug use, teen pregnancy, and criminal behavior. These problems affect not only the child and family, but also the community and society as a whole. Perhaps the most damaging result of childhood abuse is the perpetuation of the cycle of abuse when the abused child becomes an adult who repeats abusive behaviors with his or her own children.
Types of Child Abuse
There are four major types of child maltreatment: physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse. Although any kind of abuse may be found separately, they often occur together.
Each state is responsible for providing its own definitions of child abuse and neglect that meet federal minimum standards found in the Child Abuse and Prevention Treatment Act (CAPTA). Most include the following:
Physical injury is physical injury ranging from minor bruises to severe fractures or death as a result of punching, beating, kicking, biting, shaking, throwing, stabbing, choking, hitting (with a hand, stick, strap, or other object), burning, or otherwise harming a child. Such injury is considered abuse regardless of whether abuse was intentional or not.
Neglect is failure to provide for a child’s basic needs. Neglect may be:
- Physical (lack of appropriate supervision or failure to provide necessary food, shelter, or medical care).
- Educational (failure to educate a child or attend to special education needs).
- Emotional (inattention to a child’s emotional needs or exposure to domestic violence).
- These situations do not always mean that a child is neglected. Sometimes cultural values, the standards of care in the community, and poverty may be contributing factors, indicating that the family is in need of information or assistance. When a family fails to use information and resources, and the child’s needs continue to be unmet, then further child welfare professional intervention may be required.
Sexual abuse includes activities by a parent or caretaker such as fondling a child’s genitals, penetration, incest, rape, sodomy, indecent exposure, and commercial exploitation through prostitution or the production of pornographic materials. Any sexual activity between an adult and a child is considered abusive, including any contact that is accomplished by force or by threat of force.
Emotional abuse is any pattern of behavior that impairs a child’s emotional development or sense of self-worth. This may include constant criticism, verbal abuse, threats, or rejection, as well as withholding love, support, or guidance.
WHY PREVENT CHILD ABUSE BEFORE IT OCCURS?
ELEVEN GOOD REASONS
- So the statistics will go down
- So children will grow to their full potential
- To save taxpayers money
- To build healthier families and communities
- To reduce the prison population
- To reduce the number of patients with mental illness
- To reduce the number of gang members, prostitutes, child abusers, spouse abusers
- To make drastic cuts in costs associated with substance abuse treatment
- To make our country a child-friendly place for all children
- To eliminate the fear that many children have for the adults who are responsible for them
- AND THE BEST REASON OF ALL…
Because it is the most successful (and most humane) approach to ending child abuse!
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