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Do you know the signs & symptoms of child abuse?

Did you know that ONE in TEN children experience sexual abuse by their eighteen birthday? Child

abuse is a difficult subject for anyone to talk about and often times, people don’t believe that it can happen to them, their relatives, friends, co-workers, or neighbors. But the truth is, that most people will know at least one person who has experienced child abuse. At The Tree House, our job is to talk about this difficult subject and to help children and families heal from child abuse. When you think of child abuse you more than likely think of physical and sexual abuse. Knowing there are more than two types of abuse is part of recognizing all the signs and symptoms.

Physical abuse is when a child is purposely physically injured or put at risk. Signs of physical abuse may include:

  • Unexplained injuries or explanations of injuries that don’t make sense

  • Bruises-- For younger children, remember TEN4-- Torso Ears Neck 4 years or younger

  • Fractures

  • Burns- especially burns that cover one part of the body or have specific lines

  • Fearfulness and/or avoidance of physical touch

  • Unusual marks or bruises that have a pattern

Sexual abuse is any sexual activity with a child. It can include physical sexual activity or non-physical, such as exposing a child to sexual acts or private parts. Signs of sexual child abuse may include:

  • Age-inappropriate sexual behavior and/or sexual knowledge

  • Inappropriate sexual contact with other children

  • Statements that sexual abuse has occurred

  • Physical trauma to genital areas

  • Depression, distress, and/or regressing to behaviors they had previously outgrown

Neglect is also a form of child abuse and is the most common form of abuse. Neglect makes up for 70% of child abuse reports made each year. Neglect can be defined as failure to provide supervision, food, shelter, affection, and medical care. Signs of neglect may include:

  • Consistently inappropriately dressed for weather

  • Ill-fitting or dirty clothes and shoes

  • Poor hygiene

  • Health and developmental problems

  • Underweight

  • A lack of supervision

Children can also experience emotional abuse. Emotional abuse usually occurs when the child experiences other forms of abuse as well. Injuring a child’s self esteem and emotional well-being is caused by emotional abuse. Signs of emotional abuse may include:

  • Excessively shy, fearful, or afraid to do something wrong

  • Antisocial

  • Socially immature

  • Low self esteem

Commercial exploitation of children is the final type of abuse. This occurs when children are used sexually in exchange for goods or services. Exploiters may be relatives, acquaintances, or strangers taking advantage of a child sexually for their own gain. Signs of sexual exploitation may include:

  • Sexually transmitted infections

  • Submissive and/or unresponsive behaviors such as little eye contact, secretiveness, etc.

  • Hyper-vigilance

  • Tattoos/branding typically on wrists, shoulders, or chest

  • Usually accompanied by someone older and rarely left alone

  • Fearfulness, anxiety, depression, and/or nervousness

Talking about abuse of any kind to a child is very difficult. Nobody wants to think of children going through abuse. Unfortunately, child abuse happens more often than we would like to think it does. When doing some research on child abuse, I found out that there was a nation estimate of 1,840 children that died from abuse and neglect in fiscal year 2019 and Georgia ranks 38th in child well-being. So, we definitely have some work and difficult discussions that need to take place. It is all of our job to help protect these children and report anything we might suspect as abuse. Knowing the facts and what to look for could help save the life of a child. If you suspect a child is abused, contact the Department of Family and Children Services or your local law enforcement agency immediately. Do your part--know the facts and report.

To make a report to DFCS call 1-855-422-4453

To learn more, visit these resources:

Prevent Child Abuse Georgia

Darkness to Light

Child Welfare Information Gateway

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