Prevent Child Abuse

by Jamie Littlefield
The Challenge

Child abuse leaves more than just bruises. Long after children have recovered from the physical results of a beating, abused children suffer from emotional and psychological trauma that can last the rest of their lives.

Adults who experience child abuse in their youth are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, commit violent crimes, form unhealthy relationships, and even abuse their own children.

Unfortunately, many bystanders witness child abuse and do nothing about it. Neighbors and friends may hear or even see child abuse happening, but don't want to intrude or interfere with "the rights" of the parents. Such inaction can mean years of pain and heartbreak for young children who are unable to get out of a bad situation.

Abused children need your intervention. In their helplessness, they must rely on capable adults who are willing to take a stand and get them out of an abusive environment. By being aware of child abuse, and helping to educate the people you know, you can help prevent child abuse in your community.

How to Make a Difference I Did This!
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Learn about child abuse. Educate yourself by reviewing the Child Abuse Fact Sheet. Also, keep these key facts in mind:

  • Child abusers can be any age, any gender, and any race. They can be from any economic class and have any level of education.
  • Children are more likely to be abused by their own parents than by a stranger.
  • Rarely does an incident of child abuse happen in isolation. When a child is abused once, it is likely to happen again.

Educate your neighbors and friends about child abuse. Consider emailing your acquaintances a link to this article and the child abuse fact sheet. Or, ask an official from a local domestic violence shelter to speak to your neighborhood group, church association, PTA, or other organization. They are usually more than willing to share what they know about how to prevent child abuse.

Make sure your acquaintances know that they can get help if they find themselves in a situation where they could become an abuser. It is often difficult for abusers to get help because they are afraid of losing their children and don't want to be judged by the people they know. Abusers can get the help they need by:

  • Making an anonymous call to the National Child Abuse Hotline (1-800-4-A-Child). Non-judgmental hotline counselors will help them work through their problems, suggest alternative ways to interact with their children, and connect them with resources that are available in their community.
  • Joining a support group. Parents Anonymous holds weekly meetings around the country to help people develop positive parenting skills. The group meetings are free of charge and parents are welcome to attend for as long as they wish.
  • Seeking respite care. Many states offer respite care programs and crisis care programs that will take care of a children for a few hours if they could be in danger of abuse. Such programs are not meant to be daycares, but they do offer an emergency solution for parents who need some immediate relief and don't have friends or family members they can turn to.

Stop child abuse when you see it. If you have trouble identifying the difference between child abuse and acceptable forms of discipline, take a look at the government's definition of child abuse. If you're concerned that a child may be abused, it's better to be safe than sorry. Here's what you can do:

  • Call the National Child Abuse Hotline (1-800-4-A-Child). During your anonymous call, their counselors can help you evaluate the situation and help you make a child abuse report to the proper authorities. If you are nervous about making a report, they will even stay on the line during a 3-way call to offer you support.
  • Call your state's Department of Child Protective Services directly. They will take the information you provide and do a thorough investigation into the situation. If they find that child abuse is occurring, they will remove the child from the situation. 
  • If a child is in immediate danger, call 911.

It's time that people take a stand against child abuse. Your simple actions will help prevent child abuse and give abused children hope for a brighter future.

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