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             April is Child Abuse Prevention Month    

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. There are many forms of abuse that impact some children daily. Some types of abuse include but are not limited to physical, emotional, neglect and verbal abuse. Children who have been exposed to violence can have a lasting effect. Childhood exposure to violence has a devastating impact on a child's:
  • Development
  • Emotional Growth
  • Cognitive Development
  • Physical Health
  • School Performance
(NCCEV, 2006;

Blue Ribbon - Child Abuse
Additionally, children exposed to violence can create negative outcomes for these children when they become adults according to Dr. Vincent Felliti and Dr. Robert F. Anda who conducted the nationally recognized Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study. Dr. Felliti and his research team have found that a relationship of adverse childhood experiences relate directly to later life problems with adult medical diseases, psychiatric disorders and sexual behaviors which could have major implications for healthcare professionals.

According to research developed by Dr. Felliti and associates, growing up experiencing any of the conditions listed below in the household prior to age 18 may result in negative adult outcomes:
  • Recurrent physical abuse
  • Recurrent emotional abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • An alcohol and/or drug abuser in the household
  • An incarcerated household member
  • Someone who is chronically depressed, mentally ill, institutionalized, or suicidal
  • Mother is treated violently
  • Only one or no parents
  • Emotional or physical neglect

What is child sexual abuse? Child sexual abuse is any sexual act between an adult and a minor or between two minors when one exerts power over the other.  When an adult or an older child forces another child to engage in any type of sexual conduct or contact, it is sexual abuse.  Sexual abuse can be a one-time event, or it can happen repeatedly over months or years.  It is estimated that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before their 18th birthdays.  Child abuse and child sexual abuse is a community problem.  (Stewards of Children, 2007)

It is equally important to discuss with children who are exposed to violence because they are deeply affected by the violence they have seen.

  • Children are exposed to violence in most areas of their daily lives, such as:
    • Violence on television
    • Violence in video games
    • Violence in music
  • What is most traumatic for children, however, is for them to witness violence within their homes by their parents and/or caregivers.
    (Massachusetts Medical Society, 2000)

There are many signs that a child may have witnessed or be experiencing abuse in their lives.  These signs are different based on the age of the child. 

Some examples are:

Infants (birth to one year)
  • May be fussy
  • May develop sleeping problems
  • May have disruptions in eating
  • May fail to develop attachments to key caregivers
  • May be lethargic and unresponsive
  • May suffer from failure to thrive
Toddlers (1-3 years old)
  • May develop problems sleeping, including nightmares
  • May show disruption in normal eating patterns
  • May have increased tantrums
  • May wet him/herself
  • May show increased clinging to caretaker
  • May withdraw
Pre-school Children (3-5 years old)
  • May have problems sleeping
  • May display irritability and frustration
  • May display a defiant attitude
  • May have increased tantrums
  • May show disruption in normal eating patterns
  • May have difficulty separating from caretaker
School-age Children (6-11 years old)
  • May show anxiety and aggression
  • May be preoccupied with details of traumatic events
  • May have difficulties at school, which could include getting along with others and inability to do well on homework assignments
  • May have problems with attention and hyperactivity
Adolescents (12 years and older)
  • May have difficulties with making or keeping friends
  • May have feelings of hopelessness
  • May have difficulties concentrating, learning and behaving at school
  • May become fearful or moody
  • May show anxiety and aggression towards peers
  • May run away
  • May become involved with drugs and/or alcohol
Children exposed to violence have been linked with significant:
  • Increased depression
  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Decreased academic achievement
  • More at risk to repeat their experience as an adult as either the victim or perpetrator of violence in their own intimate relationships
    (NCCEV, 2007)
There is hope…
  • Children who witness domestic violence and receive counseling and treatment are less likely to become abusers or have other violence-related problems when they grow up.
  • Not all children who witness violence will develop the symptoms discussed above.  However, as a society we should strive to eliminate exposing our children to violence in our homes, on television, in our schools, on our school buses and in our communities at large.
  • Children need to be taught in the home that violence is unacceptable.
  • Children should also be able to talk with an adult that they trust about abuse that they have experienced or witnessed.
Children need to be taught in the home that violence is unacceptable. Children should also be able to talk with an adult they trust about abuse they have experienced or witnessed. 

Although some children will find themselves as adults trapped in the cycle of abuse, many child survivors will grow up to lead healthy lives.  The critical factor is resilience.  Resilience is the ability of a person no matter what age, to be confident and positive even after experiencing trauma and pain.  It is the ability to get up after a fall and to go forward in life with hope and confidence. 
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Press Release, 10/08/03)

  • In 2008, approximately 1,740 children died due to child abuse or neglect.  More than three-quarters (80%) of children who were killed were younger than 4 years of age. (“Child Maltreatment, 2008,”23)

  • During 2008, approximately 1,740 children died due to child abuse or neglect.  More than three-quarters (80%) of children who were killed were younger than 4 years of age (“Child Maltreatment, 2008,” 23.).

  • Fifty-one percent of child abuse or neglect victims were girls, and 48 percent were boys (“Child Maltreatment, 2008,” 23.)

  • Just under one-half (46%) of all child victims were White, 22% were African American, and 21% were Hispanic.  African American children, American Indian or Alaska Native children, and children of multiple races had the highest rates of victimization. (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Children, Youth, and Families, 2009)
  • 8% of child abuse victims had a reported disability. (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Children, Youth, and Families, 2009)

  • 57% of children will victims of some form of physical assault during their lifetime, 51 percent will be victims of bullying (emotional or physical) or teasing, and 10 percent of children will be victims of assault with a weapon. (David Finkelhor, “Violence, Abuse, and Crime Exposure in a national Sample of Children and Youth,” 3. 2009)

  • Child abuse and neglect affects over 1 million children every year. It costs our nation $220 million every day. For investigations, foster care, medical and mental health treatment. And later for special education, juvenile and adult crime, chronic health problems, and other costs across the life span. We will pay a staggering $80 billion to address child abuse and neglect in 2012. Child abuse and neglect affect us all. (Washington, DC: Prevent Child Abuse America, 2012)

  • The total direct and indirect cost of child abuse and neglect in the United States totals more than $80 billion annually. (Direct costs include law enforcement, judicial system, child welfare, and health care costs.)  (Indirect costs include special education, early intervention, mental health care, juvenile delinquency, lost productivity, emergency/transitional housing, and adult criminality). (Washington, DC: Prevent Child Abuse America, 2012)
For additional information:

OVC Directory of Crime Victim Services, an Online Resource.

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