How parents, caregivers and community members can use education as a form of prevention
April is National Child Abuse Prevention month, a time when we put a special focus on the need to support families and communities to prevent child abuse and neglect, with the goal of highlighting the need of preventative services and education to produce an environment where children can grow and thrive.
At American SPCC, we believe that the first step in child abuse prevention is education. By learning the signs of child neglect and abuse, as well the role adverse experiences play in creating unsafe situations for children, we can all be better equipped to play a role in prevention, ultimately helping build a stronger future for the children around us.
Child abuse is a broad term which encompasses many facets of the neglect, or harm that can be done to a child by a parent or caregiver. Child abuse can be physical, psychological or sexual.
Child Neglect and Adversity: Definitions and Statistics
The Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines child abuse as…
“Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation [ ]; or an act or failure to act, which presents an imminent risk of serious harm”
Statistics from the Child Maltreatment Report 2020 from the Children’s Bureau show that when child abuse occurs, 77% of perpetrators are a parent to their victim. With the overwhelming majority of victims being under the age of 1.*
All types of maltreatment can have long-lasting effects on those individuals that experience them, especially children. It can affect a child’s physical, mental and emotional health well beyond childhood, with some symptoms not being seen until a child reaches their teenage years or even into adulthood.
Several common forms of child maltreatment can be found within the list of 10 Adverse Childhood Experiences that were formalized by the CDC in the 1990s. Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are potentially traumatic events that occur in a child’s life that researchers have connected to a greater risk of negative health outcomes later in life. It could be an individual or a set of experiences that occur to a child before the age of 18, but that they remember throughout their life. These may include, neglect, physical abuse, psychological maltreatment or sexual abuse and exploitation. Scoring high on an ACEs assessment has been linked to long-term health problems such as low life potential, chronic illness, inclination towards risky behavior and even early death. If you would like to take the ACEs assessment, you can do so HERE.
It’s important to note: child abuse takes many forms that may not always be easy to identify. Understanding the different forms of abuse is key in the prevention and ending of the maltreatment a child may be suffering.
Of the different types of child and abuse and maltreatment the most common is neglect. Neglect can be one of the more difficult types of abuse to spot. Neglect is the ongoing failure to meet a child’s basic needs. 76% of child maltreatment cases reported in 2020 alone were due to neglect by a parent or caregivers and in the majority of cases, were carried out by the mother of the victim. Of all neglect cases, medical neglect was the leading cause of death in the USA.
Physical abuse is classified as any non-accidental injury to a child by a parent, caregiver, or any other person responsible for the well-being of that child. This can include, punching, hitting, kicking or shaking an infant or child.
This type of maltreatment entails abuse that damages a child’s emotional state and self-worth. A parent or caregiver may subject the child to constant criticism, rejection, threatening a child, or withholding love. One of the key indicators of emotional abuse is the absence of positive interactions between parent and child.
Sexual abuse includes inappropriate touching like fondling, rape, indecent exposure, incest, or sodomy. When sexual abuse occurs, it implicates the act of sexual gratification by the perpetrator. Approximately 58,000 cases of sexual abuse are reported every year, making up 9.4% of reported abuse cases.
“Sex trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery in which individuals perform commercial sex through the use of force, fraud, or coercion. Minors under the age of 18 engaging in commercial sex are considered to be victims of human trafficking, regardless of the use of force, fraud, or coercion.” according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month
April is a month where we raise awareness and educate ourselves on the causes, signs, and prevention of maltreatment. On average, 5 children die every single day in America due to abuse.
This is not an isolated problem. Child abuse occurs across all socioeconomic and education levels, and within every culture, ethnicity and religion. The first step starts with us, in our homes, by creating a stable, safe and nurturing environment, only then can we begin to generate a common understanding and change the norms of how we care for children in our individual communities.
Together we can inspire collective action and ensure that our children grow up to be thriving and healthy adults by building a brighter future together. When we know better we can do better!
American SPCC is working to raise $5000.00 to continue our work to prevent child abuse and neglect.
Join us to support families across America to build upon their strengths and knowledge that enables them to care for their children in a safe and positive way so that maltreatment doesn’t begin in the first place!
*If you suspect a child is being maltreated, click here for resources on how to report it.