The statistics on physical child abuse are alarming. It is estimated hundreds of thousands of children are physically abused each year by a parent or close relative. Thousands actually die as a result of the abuse. For those who survive, the emotional trauma remains long after the external bruises have healed.
A few years back, one would have found it hard to imagine that child abuse does exist. Being a Foster Mom for 15 years I saw many types of abuse from Physical Abuse, to Mental Abuse, and Sexual Abuse. Let me relate a couple of stories….
One of the first children we had in our home was only seven years old. From the time she was a baby she had been sexually abused by both parents.
All of her innocence was lost. That is all she knew and she thought it was alright in her mind to do this. She did not last in our home very long because she needed to be in a home with her as the only child.
Another story is a little girl only two years of age, that had lived in a drug invested house with both parents and had body lice from head to toe.
I still remember putting her in a tub and putting the medicine all over her body and just holding her. One more story that relates to Mental Abuse is when a young man did something the parents did not like they put him in a dog run for a week at a time until he would be good. Such horrible cases of Child Abuse.
In recent years, there has been a considerable increase in cases related to Child Abuse. This pertains to children all over the world.
Whenever a child says he or she has been abused, it must be taken seriously and immediately evaluated.
Children who have been abused may display:
- a poor self image
- sexual acting out
- inability to trust or love others
- aggressive, disruptive, and sometimes illegal behavior
- anger and rage
- self destructive or self abusive behavior, suicidal thoughts
- passive, withdrawn or clingy behavior
- fear of entering into new relationships or activities
- anxiety and fears
- school problems or failure
- feelings of sadness or other symptoms of depression
- flashbacks, nightmares
- drug and alcohol abuse
- sleep problems
Often the severe emotional damage to abused children does not surface until adolescence or even later, when many abused children become abusing parents. An adult who was abused as a child often has trouble establishing lasting and stable personal relationships.
These men and women may have trouble with physical closeness, touching, intimacy, and trust as adults. They are also at higher risk for anxiety, depression, substance abuse, medical illness, and problems at school or work.
Whispered Scream A child born into hatred unwanted and unloved Living in constant fear, not knowing when the next punch or kick will come Trapped and alone, never knowing the warmth of a hug.
Growing up in silence, they have to keep the secret Can’t let anyone see them, there’s no way to explain the bruises Always feeling so ashamed, never letting anyone get close
Lashing out in anger, wanting to hurt others too Make them feel your pain! Let them hear your screams! Feeling so hopeless, wondering if there is life out there All you’ve known is desperation, hate, and pain.
They want it all to end, for the hurt to just go away.
The cold steel blade presses against their skin but once again, They can’t do the deed They scream…..but no one hears it, once again, it’s left unheard Can you hear it?
Can you hear the whispered scream?
Simply stated, Child Abuse is the bad treatment of a child under the age of 18 by a parent, caretaker, someone living in their home or someone who works with or around children. Abuse of a child is anything that causes injury or puts the child in danger of physical injury.
Child abuse can be physical (such as burns or broken bones), sexual (such as touching of private parts or incest), or emotional (such as belittling or calling the child names). Neglect happens when a parent or responsible caretaker fails to provide adequate supervision, food, clothing, shelter or other basics for a child.
Child abuse is any action (or lack of) which endangers or impairs a child’s physical, mental or emotional health and development. Child abuse occurs in different ways.
We had another little boy that came to us at the age of six…he had both arms and legs broke and he had cigarette burns all over his body and was forced to live in a closet. This little boy lived with us until the age of 16 and then he beat up our daughter.
The Invisible Scars go so deep they have a hard time ever going away. All forms of abuse and neglect are harmful to any child.
Child abuse may be:
- Physical – hitting, shaking, burns, human bites, strangulation.
- Emotional – constant disapproval, belittling, constant teasing.
- Sexual – fondling, the showing of private parts by an adult, sexual intercourse, oral and anal sex, forcing a child to watch while others have sexual intercourse, incest, pornography.
- Neglect – absence of adequate food, shelter, emotional and physical security, and medical care.
April is Child Abuse Awareness Month, a time set aside to bring attention to a terrible reality and a time when your community can come together and become informed on ways to prevent it from happening.
The term “prevention“ is typically used to represent activities that stop an action or behavior. It can also be used to represent activities that promote a positive action or behavior. Research has found that successful child abuse interventions both reduce risk factors and promote protective factors to ensure the well-being of children and families.
Psychological effects of Child Abuse…. Physical, sexual or emotional abuse can leave severe impact on the child for years. It can cause several problems in the physical and emotional development of the child.
The effects of abuse can vary from child to child, depending upon the severity and frequency of abuse, age of the child, child’s relationship with the abuser, availability of emotional support and the child’s capacity to cope. The abused child can recover from the physical harms and injuries with proper medical attention after some duration.
But, it is very difficult for the child to cope up with long-lasting psychological effects. About 80% of abused children are at higher risk of developing certain serious psychiatric problems and mental illnesses. One of the most common psychological problems in a physically abused child is disruptive disorder.
Physically abused children tend to show excessive aggressiveness and delinquent behavior. The child may become extremely violent or self-destructive.
Let’s take a look at the signs for these kinds of abuse that I mentioned above……..
Signs of Physical Abuse
- Has unexplained burns, bites, bruises, broken bones, or black eyes
- Has fading bruises or other marks noticeable after an absence from school
- Seems frightened of the parents and protests or cries when it is time to go home
- Shrinks at the approach of adults
- Reports injury by a parent or another adult caregiver
Consider the possibility of physical abuse when the parent or other adult caregiver:
- Offers conflicting, unconvincing, or no explanation for the child’s injury
- Describes the child as “evil,” or in some other very negative way
- Uses harsh physical discipline with the child.
So what are the signs of Neglect?
- Is frequently absent from school
- Begs or steals food or money
- Lacks needed medical or dental care, immunizations, or glasses
- Is consistently dirty and has severe body odor
- Lacks sufficient clothing for the weather
- Abuses alcohol or other drugs
- States that there is no one at home to provide care
Consider the possibility of neglect when the parent or other adult caregiver:
- Appears to be indifferent to the child
- Seems apathetic or depressed
- Behaves irrationally or in a bizarre manner
- Is abusing alcohol or other drugs
Signs of Sexual Abuse:
- Has difficulty walking or sitting
- Suddenly refuses to change for gym or to participate in physical activities
- Reports nightmares or bedwetting
- Experiences a sudden change in appetite
- Demonstrates bizarre, sophisticated, or unusual sexual knowledge or behavior
- Becomes pregnant or contracts a venereal disease, particularly if under age 14
- Runs away
- Reports sexual abuse by a parent or another adult caregiver
Consider the possibility of sexual abuse when the parent or other adult caregiver:
- Is unduly protective of the child or severely limits the child’s contact with other children, especially of the opposite sex
- Is secretive and isolated
- Is jealous or controlling with family members
Let’s see what the Signs of Emotional Maltreatment are…..
- Shows extremes in behavior, such as overly compliant or demanding behavior, extreme passivity, or aggression
- Is either inappropriately adult (parenting other children, for example) or inappropriately infantile (frequently rocking or head-banging, for example)
- Is delayed in physical or emotional development
- Has attempted suicide
- Reports a lack of attachment to the parent
Consider the possibility of emotional maltreatment when the parent or other adult caregiver:
- Constantly blames, belittles, or berates the child
- Is unconcerned about the child and refuses to consider offers of help for the child’s problems
- Overtly rejects the child
If you haven’t read the book “The Boy Called It” you need to. David Pelzer’s A Child Called “It” the first in his trilogy (followed by The Lost Boy and A Man Called Dave) tells the story of his first 12 years of life, most of which was lived at the abusive hand of his mother in “one of the most severe child abuse cases in California history.”
The back cover tells us A Child Called”It” is the story of Dave Pelzer, who was brutally beaten and starved by his emotionally unstable alcoholic mother: a mother who played tortuous games- that left him nearly dead.
He had to learn how to play his mother’s games in order to survive because she no longer considered him a son, but a slave; and no longer a boy, but an “It.” Dave’s bed was an old army cot in the basement, and his clothes were torn and raunchy.
When his mother allowed him the luxury of food, it was nothing more than spoiled scraps that even the dogs refused to eat.”
Dave Pelzer and his two older brothers started life with what Dave himself calls “the ‘Brady Bunch’ of the 1960’s. His father was a firefighter in San Fransisco while his mother took care of their home in Daly City just a few miles away.
While their father was at work, their mother took them on day trips and seemed to spoil the children. But over time, David found his punishments were not only becoming more extreme, but more and more frequent, eventually leading to his mother flying off the handle if he did nothing more that look at her or one of his brothers.
There are horrific stories in A Child Called “It” about Dave’s constant struggles for food. Often his breakfast consisted of whatever one of his brothers didn’t eat. His lunch was 2 peanut butter sandwiches. And more often than not, he wasn’t allowed dinner. He was made to wear the same clothes every week throughout the school year. He slept in the basement, which was really a garage under the house.
Some of his mother’s favorite punishments included forcing young David to lie for hours in a tub full of cold water, allowing only his nose above the water so the boy could breathe. Or she would close him up in the bathroom with a bucket of amonia and Clorox until the room filled with noxious gas, burning his lungs and melting away some of the skin on David’s tongue.
She beat him, starved him, ridiculed him, even to the point of his younger brothers (she had 2 more children after her abuse of David was under way) growing up with an ingrained hatred of him.
This went on for years, from about the time David was in the first grade until he was 12 years old, until FINALLY a teacher stepped in. David’s case was reported to the police and he was rescued. “I’m free?” he recalls thinking as he’s being driven away in a police car.
Years later it was determined that Dave’s case was identified as one of the most gruesome and extreme cases of child abuse in California’s history. As an adult, Pelzer went from victim to victor.
While experts debate the accuracy of the statistics, few dispute the harm that child abuse can cause. While some children die of neglect and abuse, most victims survive with psychic scars that stay with them throughout their lives.
As stated by the National Council on Child Abuse and Family Violence, “Abuse robs children of the opportunity to develop healthy, trusting relationships with adults, contributes to low self-esteem, and impairs healthy psycho-social development.”
However, it is important to know that there is help out there and the cycle can be broken. It is not an easy route to take to but definitely one that is well worth it.
It would be beneficial for children to learn about child abuse and its different forms in school. Many children need help to realize that they are in an abusive home or environment and be made aware, that there are places for help available. The cycle can be broken successfully. Children are our most valuable possession.
They represent our future. What they need is your intense love, care and attention.
For every child who cries at night
Alone with shame and pain and fright
For every child who wants so much
To only feel a gently touch
For the beaten child, who cries in pain
Who tears run silent, like the rain
For the child used to satisfy lust
Who never learns to love or trust
For the child taken from her home
And made to feel so all alone
For the child whose home is just a shell
Whose life becomes a living hell
For the child who smile but cannot feel
Because of scars too deep to heal
For every child that yearns for love
I hope and pray from God above
To hear your cries and heal your pain
And give you back your life again
With love, to all the children
How to Tell Someone What Is Happening
You know it’s important for kids to tell someone if they think they’re being hurt, harmed, or abused. But how does a kid tell? Here are some ideas:
- Talk to a trusted adult in person.
- Talk to a trusted adult on the phone.
- Write a note, an email, or send a letter to the trusted adult.
- Tell someone at school, like a school counselor, school nurse, teacher, or coach.
- Tell a friend’s mom or dad, big brother, or big sister.
- Tell someone who answers the phone at a hotline service, such as 1-800-4-A-CHILD.
The way a kid tells and whom a kid tells will be different depending on the situation. The most important thing is to tell someone — or even several people — until someone takes action to stop the abuse from happening. Kids who let adults know that someone is hurting them, even if it’s someone they love, might be helping other kids as well as themselves.
Let the person know you need to talk about something in private. If you’re not sure if it’s abuse, you can tell the person that something happened and you want to check to see if it might be abuse.
It takes a lot of courage to talk about this kind of thing, and sometimes it takes a while to feel strong enough to talk about it. That’s OK. Just know that, in the end, telling a safe person is the bravest thing a kid can do. It can feel really good when a kid takes steps to stay safe and happy and stop abuse from happening.
Also, check out these helpful resources on child abuse and prevention………..
Child Abuse and Neglect – This site, from a bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, provides links to basic information about child abuse and neglect and to many other sites and publications that provide more detailed information and help. (Child Welfare Information Gateway)
Physical and Behavioral Indicators of Abuse – Clearly laid out in chart form, detailed lists of child abuse and neglect symptoms in several different areas. (The National Children’s Advocacy Center)
Fact Sheet: Emotional child abuse (Prevent Child Abuse America)
Toll-Free Crisis Hotline Numbers (Child Welfare Information Gateway)
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