April is the month where we place some emphasis on preventing child abuse among our children. We recognize that adverse childhood experiences have significant negative impact on the quality of life well beyond childhood years. This can take the form of physical or sexual abuse, emotional abuse or neglect by parents or caregivers. Early detection is vitally important. Most children who are abused usually display some behaviors that are indicative of abuse.
In a recent article by Alana Walczak she sited Mariana Harms, CALM’s manager of clinical training, for some tips and tools she provides community members in order to recognize and report childhood trauma. Here are some common behaviors and signs to look for:
• Physical neglect is often demonstrated through signs of malnutrition, poor hygiene, and unattended physical or medical needs.
• Physical abuse may appear as unexplained bruises, burns, or when a child appears frightened or uneasy with a parent or caregiver.
• Signs of sexual abuse can include inappropriate sexual play with toys, self or others and children not wanting to be left alone with certain people.
• Emotional abuse can include name-calling, threats of injury or threats of neglect, such as “I’ll leave you here by yourself.” Altercations between adults, such as yelling profanities or physical aggression, in front of children are also a type of emotional abuse and can leave long-lasting impact on the child.
If any of us witness these types of behavior it is important to address it by checking in with the child and providing opportunities for them to share what is going on for them. If it is clear that there is abuse it should be reported to your state-wide Childline and the child should be provided protection from anyone who is abusing them.
It is my hope that we continue to raise our awareness more than once a year. However, it is a good reminder to everyone who works with children to be aware of the potential for abuse or neglect. It is a difficult issue to deal with. At the same time, it could save the life of a child if we are attuned and aware of the potential for abuse in their lives.