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preventing child abuse – Five Days of Action: Preventing Child Abuse

Five Days of Action: Preventing Child Abuse

April is a month representing a variety of national concerns, one of them being Child Abuse Prevention Month. The burden of prevention falls on the nation’s shoulders, and it’s important to know how you can help. All information in this post has been helpfully utilized from the Darkness to Light organization. Through FiveDaysofAction.org, we can all be a part of preventing child abuse.

April 16: Learn the Facts

“Learn the facts and understand the risks. Realities – not trust – should influence your decisions regarding a child.” 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will have been sexually abused by their 18th birthday. Most likely, you may know a child who has either been or is currently being abused. Only 1 in 10 children report abuse themselves. The other 9 that likely keep their abuse a secret are more susceptible to psychological, emotional, social, or physical problems that can stick with them their entire lives. 70-80% of sexual abuse survivors report excessive drug and alcohol use. Abuse is a root cause of many health and social problems our Harrisburg communities and communities around the world face.

Stranger danger is a MYTH: you may likely know a child abuser. They tend to be friends and family, not “strangers.” Approximately 30% of victims are abused by family members. As many as 60% are abused by people their families trust. This means that 90% of child sexual abuse victims know their abuser. It is hard to trust, but it is even harder not to trust. Always stay cautious! To learn more about statistical child sexual abuse, click here.

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April 17: Minimize Opportunity

If you eliminate or reduce one-on-one situations between children and adults, you will dramatically reduce the risk of abuse. More than 80% of sexual abuse cases occur in isolated situations.  How can you reduce risk?

Think carefully about your child’s safety by opting for group situations whenever possible. Another thought is to monitor your child’s internet access. More and more every day, predators use the internet to lure children into physical interaction. What further steps are you able to take, as a parent and an individual?

  • Talk with your children’s program administrators about the supervision of older youth who have responsibility for children’s care
  • Insist on screenings (criminal background checks, personal interviews, and professional recommendations) – avoid programs that do not utilize ALL of these methods.
  • Make sure that child sexual abuse training is available and is consistently used in youth-serving organizations
  • Learn how youth-serving organizations deal with suspicious situations or if they even have a protocol.

To learn more about reducing the risk, click here.

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April 18: Talk About It

Encouraging your child to share can majorly decrease the amount of secret-keeping our children can have. Children will often keep their abuse a secret, whether it’s due to embarrassment or due to a threat. Talking openly about our bodies and boundaries can encourage our children to share.

How can you start that conversation?

  • Teach children that it is “against the rules” for adults to act in a sexual way with them. Don’t be afraid to use examples.
  • Teach them what parts of their bodies others should not touch.
  • Mention the possibilities of who an abuser might be – a family member, a friend, older youth, etc.
  • Teach children not to disclose personal information while using the internet.

Starting this conversation early is a gateway to a comfortable, less vulnerable child. If you need, it can be helpful to discuss it with another adult to establish support and mutual learning. We’re all in this together! To learn more about how to start the conversation, click here.

Preventing Child Abuse

April 19: Recognize the Signs

Child sexual abuse is rampant because the signs are subtle and hardly thought about. If you know what to look for, this reality could change drastically. Physical signs of abuse are uncommon, but can often show infections, anxiety, and physical bruising. The most common signs are emotional and behavioral, which can extend across the spectrum from “perfect child” to unexplained anger or rebellion. Unfortunately, in some children, there can be no signs at all. Talking about it can help your child discern whether or not they are being abused.

If you suspect that your child has been sexually abused, have your child physically examined by a specialist. Children’s Advocacy Centers exist so that suspicious parents and harmed children can seek physical exams and psychological evaluations. To find a center near you, contact the National Children’s Alliance here or call 1-800-239-9950. To learn more about recognizing signs, click here.

But what happens if you discover abuse?

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April 20: React Responsibly

Overreaction is hard to avoid but extremely necessary in the case of child abuse. Disclosure of sexual abuse means a child has chosen you as the person he or she trusts enough to tell. If a child sprains a wrist or gets sick unexpectedly, you know to stay calm and react the proper way. As parents or care takers, you have prepared yourself for such events; react to child abuse the same way.

When you react to a child’s disclosure with bewilderment or anger, the child will likely:

  • Feel even more ashamed
  • Shut down
  • Change their story

Very few reported incidents of child sexual abuse are false. Trusting our children is important now more than ever. Show your child that you support them by:

  • Believing them
  • Thanking them for confiding in you
  • Encourage them to talk, but avoiding asking leading questions (keeping questions more open-ended)
  • Not panicking
  • Assure the child that they are not alone in their experience

To learn more about how to report suspicious and confirmed child abuse, click here.

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