Should it take the death of a child to heighten our awareness of child abuse? We heard the details of Nixzmary, but how do we prevent this from happening over and over again to all the children we have not heard about? In order to prevent abuse, we must understand it— where it comes from and how we can prevent it. If you read the newspapers the past few weeks about Nixzmary Brown, you would have read the would’ve and should ofs listed, but not what to do if you suspect abuse or any type of education prevention or awareness. We cannot fix this by turning our back or saying we are overworked, exhausted or afraid. This is a macro problem and in order for us to fix it, we all need to be involved (Administration for Child Services (ACS), schools, hospitals, the state, communities and ultimately society at large.)
As parents we hope to raise our children to be responsible adults but if we are not responsible adults, then how can we raise responsible children? When does the cycle begin and can it ever end?
Consider these scenarios
- A child is admitted to the hospital. The parents report the child is acting out in school, running away, breaking the rules of the house and behaving out of control. The parents want the child evaluated to rule out any mental illness, and the school requests this as well. The admitting psychiatrist admits the child for a psychiatric evaluation. The social worker assigned to the case does an initial assessment with the child and the child reports the father to be physically abusive. When the social worker tells the child she will discuss this with the family, the child begins to cry and begs the social worker not to. The child is afraid the abuse will get worse if the secret is shared. The social worker calls the school. The school does not report any abuse, though they were concerned.
- A child in the neighborhood appears depressed, malnourished and withdrawn. Each day when walking by the house, you hear screaming matches between the parents, and you have noticed the father intoxicated as he returns home from work. You fear this man. He has threatened to harm people in the past and the police were notified, but nothing was done. He was warned.
- A little boy comes into school and threatens kids in the classroom. The social worker has been notified, as well as the principal. The class is upset. The child remains in the class acting out.
Questions to think about
What is going on here? Children are falling through the cracks. There is no quick fix. Why has this become such a serious problem? Who should be held responsible? As Hilary Rodham Clinton once said, “It takes a village.” Well, she is right! Children are to be seen and heard. Today, with inadequate childcare, high economic demands, pressure placed on families to sustain a home and the high cost of healthcare and insurance, families are barely surviving. Everyone needs to be involved in a child’s life for a child to flourish. No child should ever go unnoticed.
What has happened to the meaning of family? I’m not referring to the fictitious Brady Bunch or Leave it to Beaver, I’m referring to family, and their values and traditions; What happened to spirituality? What happened to family and teacher participation in afterschool activities? Didn’t you love it when a family member attended one of your plays or sporting events when you were a child? Why is it that so many parents today don’t have the time for their children?
Is it the “me” generation and instant gratification that prevents us from looking beyond ourselves? How do we help restore family values, safety and community pride? Obviously, I am not saying all people are this way, but awareness and prevention happens when we begin to pay attention and become involved, concerned citizens. Not for a week after the press covers a story, but forever.
Is life about surviving or is life about living? Perhaps there should be mandated parenting classes in high school before you get pregnant or married and it is too late. You have to pass your road test to drive a car; maybe we need a test for parenting to become a parent.
Help and Prevention
The following information is your prevention education. It is up to you to be a responsible human being. If you suspect abuse, do something about it. Your call is anonymous!
Share this information with your friends and family and become part of PARENTGUIDE and TWEENS & TEENS News team and Child Abuse Prevention Services to help prevent child abuse.
What you should know:
How to Report Abuse
The following information is courtesy of Child Abuse Prevention Services (CAPS) www.CAPSLI.org.
- In New York State: To report a case of child abuse or neglect, call the New York State Central Register, (800)342-3720. This hotline is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- Outside of New York State: To report a case of child abuse or neglect, call the National Child Abuse Hotline, (800)4-A-CHILD.
- To report a case of online child sexual exploitation, harassment or solicitation, call The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, (800)843-5678 or contact them at www.cybertipline.com.
Definitions of Child Abuse and Maltreatment
Examples of child abuse and maltreatment fall into four major categories: neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse and emotional abuse. Any one of these can be found separately, but they often occur together.
- Neglect: The failure to provide for a child’s basic needs. Can include: physical neglect, such as the lack of appropriate supervision or the failure to provide necessary food, shelter or medical care; educational neglect, such as the failure to educate a child or attend to his/her special education needs; emotional neglect, such as the inattention to a child’s emotional needs or the exposure of a child to domestic violence; or excessive corporal punishment.
- Physical Abuse: Physical injury, ranging from bruises to severe fractures or death, that results from punching, beating, kicking, biting, shaking, throwing, stabbing, hitting, burning or otherwise harming a child. Injuries that result from such behavior are considered abuse regardless of intent.
- Sexual Abuse: Includes the use of a child for sexual gratification and activities such as the fondling of a child’s genitals, penetration, incest, rape, sodomy, indecent exposure and commercial exploitation through prostitution or the production of pornographic materials.
- Emotional Abuse: A sustained, repetitive pattern of behavior that demonstrably impairs a child’s emotional development or sense of self-worth. This can include constant criticism, threats, rejection or confinement, as well as withholding love, support or guidance.
Using the above definitions, children who are bullied by their peers— whether face-to-face or via the Internet— can be considered victims of physical or emotional abuse.
In many ways, sexual harassment— defined as unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature— is itself a form of bullying. It is, at heart, an abuse of power carrying sexual overtones, and, unfortunately, it is not limited to the adult world.
Rape in any form is a crime— what sets date/acquaintance rape apart is that the victims know their abusers, either as friends or in a dating relationship.
Children can become victims of sexual abuse, harassment and/or exploitation via the Internet without ever meeting their abusers. This fact, combined with the issues raised by cyber-bullying, is why addressing Internet safety is an increasingly important part of efforts to prevent child abuse.
Child Abuse by the Numbers
Regardless of the type of abuse, every abused child is a human tragedy, and the numbers are staggering.
- Nationwide, nearly 900,000 children are found to have been abused or neglected each year. That’s more than 100 children every hour of every day.
- On Long Island alone, more than 4,000 children are found to have been abused or neglected each year— more than ten children a day.
- Nationwide, one in four girls and one in seven boys will be a victim of sexual abuse by the age of 18.
- On Long Island alone, more than 800 incidents of child sexual abuse are reported each year.
- Nationwide, more than 1,400 children die each year due to child abuse and neglect— roughly one child every six½ hours.
- Nationwide, one in ten students in grades 6 through 10 report being bullied “sometimes” or “weekly.”
- In the average classroom of 20 students or more, two to three students spend every day in fear of being bullied, harassed or worse.
- A national study suggests half of all children with Internet access either have been or know someone who has been the victim of cyber-bullying, or have been cyber-bullies themselves.
- One in five children already has received an online sexual solicitation.
- Cases of child sexual exploitation via the Internet have increased more than 2,000 percent since 1996.
How to Recognize Abuse
Every child gets cuts or bruises once in a while— that’s why it can be hard to recognize the signs that a child is being abused. While a series of bruises, broken bones or other injuries can be a clue that a child is being abused or neglected, other signs can be tougher to pick up. These can include:
- nightmares or trouble sleeping
- a decline in school performance
- a poor self-image
- trouble trusting or loving others
- intense anger or rage
- acting out in the classroom
- inappropriate sexual behavior
- self-destructive behavior
- withdrawal, passiveness or depression
- difficulty forming new relationships
- drug or alcohol abuse
- avoidance of home
- fear of certain adults.
None of these symptoms automatically signal that a child is being abused or neglected. For instance, children who are witnessing marital discord or other problems at home could exhibit similar symptoms, however, these are warning signs that suggest some questions need to be asked— and they should not be ignored.