Child abuse is an ugly subject. Even people who dedicate their lives to helping children want to block out the visions, sounds and memories that echo in the aftermath of meeting victims of abuse. So what are you to do when you suspect something might be happening but not knowing how you could help, feel powerless to help a child suffering under the monster that is child abuse?
Today you can arm yourself with the knowledge that you can protect a child, and help an entire family, by properly reporting the suspected or obvious mistreatment of a child. Anyone can report suspected child abuse or neglect. You could save a life.
Identifying Child Abuse
Child abuse is defined as any intentional, emotional, physical or sexual injury to a child. These abuses can take many, many forms. Laws and levels of intervention differ from state to state but here is a very generalize list of identifiers of child abuse.
Bruises, such as those caused by hands, fists, electrical cords, clothes hangers, and belts | Internal organ injury which can be difficult to detect but may lead to internal bleeding | Bone fractures, especially arms, legs, and skull | Burns from such things as cigarettes, lighters, and stove burners | Lacerations caused by knives, razor blades, or other sharp objects
Inappropriate sexual touching | Fondling | Rape | Prostitution | Pornography | Forcing a child to perform or help to perform any sexual behavior
Constant belittling, shaming and humiliation | Frequent yelling, threatening or bullying
Physical neglect involves a spectrum of behavior ranging from refusing to provide basic nutrition or necessary health care for the child to total abandonment of the child | Emotional neglect has a wide spectrum of behavior starting with the absence of adequate adult affection toward the child and includes exposing the child to physical violence and/or arguing/fighting between parents | Educational neglect occurs when the child’s caretakers fail to provide the child with an adequate educational experience
Reporting Child Abuse
Childhelp® is a national organization that provides crisis assistance and other counseling and referral services. Not only for victims, Childhelp can connect those who want to report abuse to the correct resources.
The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with professional crisis counselors who have access to a database of 55,000 emergency, social service, and support resources. All calls are anonymous. Contact them at 1.800.4.A.CHILD (1.800.422.4453).
If you witness child abuse or neglect contact your local law enforcement agency so a professional can intervene immediately. If you suspect child abuse or neglect or have witnessed a situation you find concerning you can refer to this list of State Child Abuse Reporting Phone Numbers to get more localized assistance in finding your next step.
Note that in some states any person who suspects child abuse or neglect is required to report it. You can check your states standings on Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse and Neglect online in the linked pdf.