One of the biggest jobs parents face is keeping their kids safe. Unfortunately, this job extends beyond things of chance such as falling down and speeding cars – parents must also be on the lookout for hidden predators as well.
There are four basic types of child abuse: sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect and emotional abuse.
While the first two types can come from anyone, family and friends included, the last two are usually reserved for close family members and caregivers. This is unfortunate, since these caregivers are the very people children look to for protection yet approximately 80% of child abuse cases involve parents as the abuser.
The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) and the Keeping Children and Families Safe Act create a basic set of definitions and actions for states to use to create laws preventing child abuse. All states have these laws in place and depending upon the degree of abuse, the abuser could face a lengthy prison sentence and in some states, even the death penalty for certain, really heinous offenses.
Yet a new case of child abuse is reported about every 10 seconds with about 60% of those cases being neglect. More than one-half of child abuse victims are seven years of age or younger.
Abuse can lead to developmental problems, behavioral and mental problems as well as injury to the child and even death. Children who are abused often struggle in school and are more likely to become involved with drugs, crime and prostitution. They may develop anxiety disorders, depression, psychological disorders and self-destructive behaviors. Many abused children also grow up to become abusers themselves, continuing a vicious cycle that is passed on from generation to generation.
Signs of possible abuse include:
If you suspect child abuse, contact your local police department immediately. They can put you in touch with special counselors and organizations that can investigate the suspected abuse and provide resources and refuge for the abused child.
If you are divorced from your child’s other parent or are in the midst of a divorce, notify yourattorney of the suspicions of abuse immediately as well. Allegations and proof of abuse can seriously impact custody and visitation arrangements. You and your attorney may want to ask the court to appoint a guardian ad litem (attorney for the child) or other court advocate for the child to further investigate for the purposes of determining or modifying custody. Your attorney and the court can also assist you in seeking counseling for your family in the face of abuse allegations.