National Child Abuse Prevention Month was first designated to April in 1982. These were crucial first steps in the efforts of identifying and preventing child abuse. However, we are far from solving this epidemic. Just last year there were about 6.2 million reports of child abuse/neglect, over 15 million children witnessed violence in their own homes and even more cases go unreported. Furthermore, on average five children die every day because of child abuse.
Unfortunately, the majority of the time the guardians of these children are responsible for the abuse. There are also overwhelming amounts of cases where the guardian knew about the abuse but made no effort to stop it. Most often the abuser is a parent, or someone who is in the position of caring for that child.
Children under four, and those with special needs (whether it be physical or mental) are at a greater risk of mistreatment. Caregivers who were abused themselves, or were in a family that had problems with child abuse, mental health, or drug problems are also more at risk for abusing children.
Likewise, adults who do not understand the responsibility of taking care of a child, or misunderstand the needs of children, single parents of low socioeconomic status and other adults that are caregivers (boyfriend, girlfriend, babysitter, etc.) in the home are at more of a risk of becoming child abusers.
Child abuse can be either physical, or emotional. Some abuse is not necessarily visible, however, that does not discount it as abuse. (Example; abuse can come in the form of broken bones or bruises but it also can be a lack of food or attention, which may not be visible to the naked eye.)
Neglect is the most common form of child abuse. It accounts for about 62 percent of all child-abuse reports made to child welfare authorities. Other common forms of child abuse include physical assault/neglect, emotional abuse and sexual assault.
The effects of child abuse can have an overwhelming impact later on in life. It can affect a child’s mental health and result in symptoms such as; anxiety, depression, academic problems, flashbacks, etc. These mental problems may follow them into adolescence, and even adulthood. Survivors of child abuse are at more of a risk of developing physical, emotional, and relationship problems. Nevertheless, recovery after abuse is possible.
Child abuse is preventable and there are many ways that communities can work together to do so. First; preventing abuse involves awareness training for the professionals who work with children, those who make policies for children’s issues, and the general public. If you can spot the signs of child abuse then you may be able to stop it before it’s too late.
Second; support prevention programs that work to relieve the risk factors that make children at risk for abuse. This involves working with single parents, providing them support and child care while they are at work. It also involves programs that strengthen parenting skills and supports the ability for the caretaker/s to be able to provide for the child.
Third; prevention programs that work with families that have already have child abuse occur, attempt to alleviate the effects of abuse and prevent it from happening again.
In summary, child abuse is incredibly prevalent and we as a society have to support programs to prevent this from happening to even more children. There is much more we can do to prevent this from happening. Support prevention programs, and if you suspect a child is being abused there are child abuse hotlines available so you can report it. It is highly encouraged that you call even if you suspect there may be abuse.
Learn more here.