As a parent, you want nothing more than to ensure your children are cared for and safe. Unfortunately, not all children have their basic needs met. Some kids may be experiencing abuse from a caregiver, and others may not have a responsible adult watching over them.
It can be alarming, frightening, and heartbreaking to see one of your child’s friends face abuse and neglect. While we all hope this never happens, it’s important to understand what abuse looks like and how you can help.
Types of Child Abuse
We often think of abuse as physical, but it is not always. Physical abuse is when a child is put in physical danger, but it does not always leave marks. Physical abuse may including burning, hitting, biting, shaking/throwing, throwing objects at, tieing up a child, or holding a child underwater.
Sexual abuse is any sexual activity with a child, which may or may not include physical contact. Showing children pornography, flashing genitals, forcing children to take pornographic videos or pictures, sending sexual messages, and any sexual contact are all forms of sexual abuse.
Additionally, there is emotional abuse which is a “ pattern of behaviors that harm a child’s emotional well-being and development.” Lack of love and affection, abusing others in front of a child, shaming and belittling, and lack of emotional support are all examples.
Signs of Abuse in Children
There are many ways abuse can impact children. Here are some common signs to watch out for:
- Bruises, welts, unexplained injuries.
- Untreated medical or dental issues.
- Avoidance of any physical contact.
- Fear of going home.
- Bloody or torn underwear.
- Refusal to change clothes in front of others.
- Knowledge of sexual activity that is advanced for their age.
- Constant worry.
- Poor school performance or missing a lot of school.
- Headaches and stomach aches without cause.
- Disinterest in friends/activities.
- Running away from home.
How to Handle Suspected Abuse
Abuse of a child is not just a family matter. If you notice signs of abuse in your child’s friend, it is crucial to step in. Do not confront the potential abuser yourself. Instead, you should contact the authorities. You mustn’t be 100% certain of abuse to report it. Call your local child protective services, the police, or a hotline like the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 800-422-4453.
If the child needs immediate medical care, call 9-1-1, and bring them to the hospital. Doctors can examine signs of abuse. Offer a safe place for the child, and help them seek therapy if possible. Be a listening ear, but do not force the child to answer questions. Overall, offer support and assure them it is not their fault.
Keeping all children safe is important. Recognizing the signs of abuse is imperative for helping kids that may be in abusive situations. Should you see any signs of abuse in your child’s friends, it’s crucial that you report it as soon as possible.