04-02-2012 (Dayton, OH) -
Imagine that your child has told you that they were abused by a close family member or friend. What would you do? What questions would you ask? Who would you reach out to in such a trying time?
Each year more than one million children are abused in the U.S. With that, one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually assaulted before the age of 18. In 2010, an estimated 1,560 children died from abuse and neglect in the U.S. and in 2011, over 1,100 child abuse cases were seen in Dayton by CARE House, Child Advocacy Center of Warren County and Michael’s House.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, a time to raise awareness about child abuse and neglect and to encourage individuals and communities to support children and families, as well as educate them about this issue.
The Dayton area is fortunate to have three child advocacy centers (CACs). CARE House (Montgomery County), the Child Advocacy Center of Warren County and Michael’s House (Greene County) all partner with The Children’s Medical Center of Dayton to put the needs of abused children first. With the number of child abuse cases seen in recent years, these centers have been active in helping to reduce child abuse numbers and inform the community about its prevalence.
“Children need protection, sometimes even from the people they should be able to trust the most,” says Libby Nicholson, director of CARE House.
Often times, abuse is something that cannot be prevented, unless detected early on. It’s important to know what signs to look for and how to keep children safe if ever put in an abusive situation.
Six tips to help keep children safe:
- Take an active role in children's lives, their activities, and the adults involved.
- Listen carefully and sensitively to everything your child says.
- Do not “interrogate” your child. Instead, create an environment where communication is comfortable and natural.
- Teach children important skills to help them protect themselves. Make sure they know they can talk to you about anything that's bothering them or if they feel mixed-up or confused, especially when it comes to touching issues.
- Take some time to teach your child the correct names for their body parts. It’s especially important to inform them which ones are their “private parts."
- If a person is making your child feel “funny” or “uncomfortable,” teach them to tell someone they trust about their feelings
Determining whether or not a child is being abused can be difficult, however, there is a huge difference between ordinary scrapes and scratches and bruises that keep appearing, black eyes and broken bones. There are some signs, like a child’s emotional health, that can spark a red flag that they might be being abused.
These signs include:
- Constant sadness or anger. Kids who are being abused may act fearful or depressed or develop low self-esteem.
- Relationship troubles. Those who are abused usually have trouble developing and maintaining relationships. They are often unable to love or trust others, especially adults, whom they may be fearful of.
- “Acting out” or engaging in risky behavior. Kids who are being abused will at times act out, especially in the classroom setting. They may lose interest in activities they once loved or lose focus on their schoolwork. Drug and alcohol abuse, as well as sexual promiscuity, are also common.
Myth vs. Fact
There are many misconceptions about child abuse from who abuses to how often and why abuse occurs. Here are five of the most common myths and facts about child abuse.
Myth: Only strangers are abusers.
Fact: In approximately 90 percent of cases, the victim knows the offender. The majority of victims are abused by someone they trust, usually a relative, family member, family friend, or babysitter.
Myth: The majority of victims tell someone about the abuse.
Fact: Only one-third of all victims tell their parents or an adult for fear of being blamed, punished or accused of lying
Myth: Family sexual abuse only happens in low-income families.
Fact: Abuse crosses all classes of society. No racial, social or economic class is immune to abuse.
Myth: Men and women abuse children equally.
Fact: While females are subject to child abuse, current data indicates men are the perpetrators in the majority of cases. However, experts believe that female perpetrators are more common than first suspected.
Myth: Child abuse is often an isolated incident, only occurring once.
Fact: Abuse is seldom a one-time incident. Once a child is abused, incidents are often repeated over periods of months or years, especially if the offender is known by the child or a family member.
What can parents do if it happens?
If you suspect or a child opens up to you about being abused:
- Believe the child--Children don't usually make up stories of sexual abuse. When they are courageous enough to tell you what the problem is, believe them and immediately take action.
- Be careful with questions--Try to find out as much as you can about what happened, but avoid "leading" questions.
- Get help for the child--If the child was sexually or physically abused make sure they are taken to your local hospital or doctor. Also, contact your local CAC. The child may be more likely to open up to someone who knows exactly how to handle a child abuse case.
- Report it!--Contact Child Protective Services or your local police department immediately if you suspect that a child is being abused.
Several child advocacy centers exist in southwest Ohio.
- CARE House, Montgomery County (Dayton)
- Michael’s House, Greene County (Fairborn)
- Child Advocacy Center of Warren County (Middletown)
- Clark County Child Advocacy Center (Springfield)
- Mayerson Center for Safe and Healthy Children, Hamilton County (Cincinnati)
About Children’s Advocacy Centers
A Children's Advocacy Center (CAC) is a child-focused, facility-based program in which representatives from many disciplines-law enforcement, child protection, prosecution, mental health, medical and victim advocacy-work together, conducting child interviews and making joint decisions about the investigation, treatment, management and prosecution of child abuse cases. A core belief in children's advocacy centers is that the combined wisdom and professional knowledge of professionals of different disciplines will result in a more complete understanding of case issues and the most effective, child and family focused system response. The CAC model is now considered the best practice model for the investigative and delivery of treatment services of abused and neglected children. For a complete listing of child advocacy centers in Ohio and nationwide, log on to www.nca-online.org.
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