CASA Column: Have you ever suspected child abuse?
Many of us are unsure whether a child is being abused. Abuse is not always apparent. Often we do not know what to do if we suspect abuse and fear the results if we report to the authorities. This article is intended to provide possible warning signs of child abuse and explain what to do if you suspect abuse.
The earlier abused children get help, the greater chance they have to heal and break the cycle of abuse.
Below are warning signs, provided by Helpguide.org.
Warning signs of emotional abuse in children
• Excessively withdrawn, fearful, or anxious about doing something wrong.
• Shows extremes in behavior (extremely compliant or demanding; extremely passive or aggressive).
• Doesn’t seem to be attached to the parent or caregiver.
• Acts either inappropriately adult (taking care of other children) or inappropriately infantile (rocking, thumb-sucking, throwing tantrums).
Warning signs of physical abuse in children
• Frequent injuries or unexplained bruises, welts or cuts.
• Is always watchful and “on alert,” as if waiting for something bad to happen.
• Injuries appear to have a pattern such as marks from a hand or belt.
• Shies away from touch, flinches at sudden movements, or seems afraid to go home.
• Wears inappropriate clothing to cover up injuries, such as long-sleeved shirts on hot days.
Warning signs of neglect in children
• Clothes are ill-fitting, filthy, or inappropriate for the weather.
• Hygiene is consistently bad (unbathed, matted and unwashed hair, noticeable body odor).
• Untreated illnesses and physical injuries.
• Is frequently unsupervised or left alone or allowed to play in unsafe situations and environments.
• Is frequently late or missing from school.
Warning signs of sexual abuse in children
• Trouble walking or sitting.
• Displays knowledge or interest in sexual acts inappropriate to his or her age, or even seductive behavior.
• Makes strong efforts to avoid a specific person, without an obvious reason.
• Doesn’t want to change clothes in front of others or participate in physical activities.
• Runs away from home.
Suspected abuse is enough of a reason to contact the authorities. The safety of our children is the responsibility of all neighbors, friends and family. In today’s world, often people are hesitant to become involved, however it is our responsibility as a society to ensure the safety of all children.
When reporting child abuse remain calm, be as specific as possible, and if there are future incidences continue to call and report them.
If you think a child is in immediate danger, don’t hesitate. Call 911 to ensure the immediate safety of a child and get medical attention if needed. For non-emergencies, call the Department of Social Services, or after business hours call your local law enforcement agency. You can also call the Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-844-CO-4-KIDS (1-844-264-5437).
Working together protects vulnerable children and saves lives. Don’t hesitate. Report suspected child abuse.
Northwest Rocky Mountain CASA: recruiting, educating and empowering community volunteers to advocate in court for the best interests of abused and neglected children. More info: 970-819-6233, http://www.rockymountaincasa.org
Bonnie Robertson is the program coordinator for Northwest Rocky Mountain CASA.
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