Child abuse is an ongoing problem in America which occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education. Its effects are far-reaching, long-lasting, and absolutely devastating. It’s terrible to think that The United States has the worst record of any other industrialized nation when it comes to child abuse losing five children every day due to abuse-related deaths.
According to ChildHelp USA, a staggering 3.3 million reports of child abuse are made each year, and many experts estimate that only a third of child abuse incidents are ever reported at all. This means that the actual number of child abuse cases is more likely to be around 10 million every year.
Who Is Responsible?
Sadly, the individuals who are most often responsible for child abuse-related fatalities are the parents and caregivers themselves. I’m sure that most parents can’t even imagine hurting their own children, let alone doing something to cause their death. Although it's difficult to fathom, child abuse fatalities happens fairly often. Recent Cases Just earlier this month, a homeless mother of six let her 2-month-old son starve to death while the family was staying in a shelter. The saddest part is, the shelter offered access to food, and baby formula.
In December of 2012, thirty-four-year-old Brian Michael Miller was charged with first-degree child abuse resulting in death when he pushed his girlfriend’s two-year-old son down onto a hard floor. The child hit his head, and died from his injuries.
James D. Blanchard, 21, was sentenced to 15 years in prison after shaking his infant son so badly, that doctors say the child will never be able to walk or talk because of irreversible damage to his brain and spine.
Other Consequences Of Child Abuse
According to Instant Checkmate’s blog, children who suffer from abuse and neglect are significantly more likely to struggle later in life as adults. These problems can range in severity from psychiatric disorders such as anxiety and depression, to an increased risk for drug use and/or violent behavior later in life.
While teaching children to speak up and tell an adult they trust if they’re being abused is helpful, this strategy can’t prevent the vast majority of child abuse cases because most victims can’t speak out. According to the website, DoSomething.org, most children become victims of abuse and neglect at 18 months or younger. Additionally, in almost 80% of child-abuse related deaths, the child was under the age of four. Sadly, this means that many infants and young children are suffering in silence, unable to ask for help.
Signs of emotional abuse in a child can include: being excessively fearful, withdrawn, or anxious about doing something wrong, showing extremes in behavior, (the child can either be very compliant and cooperative, or very aggressive and demanding). The child acts overly adult (taking care of other children), or overly infantile (thumbsucking, rocking, throwing tantrums).
Signs of physical abuse in a child can include: frequent, unexplained injuries, shying away from being touched, or flinching at sudden movements, and always wearing longsleeves, even when it’s hot outside.
Recognizing child abuse and actually doing something about it are two different things. If you think a child might be suffering from abuse, REPORT IT! When reporting abuse, some key things to keep in mind are to remain calm and comforting, don’t ask intrusive questions, reassure the child they did nothing wrong, and that safety comes first. And of course, let professionals handle the serious stuff like getting the child removed from the home.
With child abuse and neglect responsible for the deaths of five innocent children every day, we can’t afford to tell ourselves “It’s not my business” or “Maybe it’s not that bad.” If you see something, DO something. It could easily save a child’s life.Jessica Ruane is a blogger who is passionate about social justice and human rights.