April is “Go Blue” month in recognition of awareness and focus on child abuse prevention. Agencies like Child Protective Services, CASA-Hope For Children and law enforcement agencies and courts work to get the word about how to identify child abuse or neglect, and the importance of reporting suspected abuse.
How to recognize child abuse
There are four major types of child maltreatment: physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse,and emotional abuse.
Suspect physical abuse when you see:
• Frequent injuries such as bruises, cuts, black eyes or burns without adequate explanations.
• Frequent complaints of pain without obvious injury.
• Aggressive, disruptive and destructive behavior.
• Passive, withdrawn and emotionless behavior.
• Fear of going home or seeing parents.
• Injuries that appear after a child has not been seen for several days.
• Unreasonable clothing that may hide injuries to arms or legs.
Suspect neglect when you see:
• Obvious malnourishment.
• Lack of personal cleanliness.
• Torn or dirty clothing.
• Stealing or begging for food.
• Child unattended for long periods of time.
• Need for glasses, dental care or other medical attention.
• Frequent tardiness or absence from school.
Suspect sexual abuse when you see:
• Physical signs of sexually transmitted diseases.
• Evidence of injury to the genital area.
• Pregnancy in a young girl.
• Difficulty in sitting or walking.
• Extreme fear of being alone with adults of a certain sex.
• Sexual comments, behaviors or play.
• Knowledge of sexual relations beyond what is expected for child’s age.
• Sexual victimization of other children.
Emotional abuse is mental or emotional injury that results in an observable and material impairment in a child’s growth, development or psychological functioning. It includes extreme forms of punishment such as confining a child in a dark closet, habitual scapegoating, belittling and rejecting treatment for a child.
Suspect emotional abuse when you see:
• Over compliance.
• Low self esteem.
• Severe depression, anxiety or aggression.
• Difficulty in making friends or doing things with other children.
• Lagging in physical, emotional and intellectual development.
• Caregiver who belittles children, withholds love and seems unconcerned about the child’s problems.
Call the Abuse Hotline at 1-800-252. 5400 and request advice by reporting your concerns. The hotline is answered 24-hours a day, seven-days a week. Remember that child abuse prevention is a community issue. Reach out to colleagues and friends who share your concerns for the well being of your community’s children. As an advocate you can make a difference in the child’s life and demonstrate there are adults who care.
To find out what you can do in your community, contact Prevent Child Abuse Texas, 1-800-252-5400, www.dfps.state.tx.us.