According to Childhelp.org,
every year nearly 6 million children in the U.S. experience child
abuse, and four children under age 4 die each day due to abuse. As
a community of people who work with kids and strive to show them
love, this is a sad and shocking statistic. We must all make an
effort to help put a stop to this terrible trend.
What Is Child Abuse?
Although different states have different terms and definitions,
child abuse usually falls under four main categories: physical,
neglect, sexual, and emotional. The U.S. Department
of Health and Human Services' Child Welfare Information Gateway
provides some useful information on the subject.
Physical- These are nonaccidental injuries and
harm that come from a child's caretaker. It doesn't matter if the
adult meant to hurt the child or not. According to the Child
Welfare Information Gateway, physical discipline, such as spanking
or paddling, is not considered abuse as long as it is reasonable
and causes no bodily injury to the child.
Neglect- When a child's basic needs are not
being met, that is also considered abuse. Caretakers must provide
physical needs (food and shelter), medical needs, educational
needs, and emotional needs (not allowing kids to use alcohol or
drugs, giving psychological help when needed).
Sexual- The exploitation of children is a form
of abuse. Allowing children to engage in, or expose them to, any
form of inappropriate sexual situations falls under this category
Emotional- This can be the hardest form of
abuse to identify, but if a child is being abused in another way,
emotional abuse can usually be found as well. In brief, emotional
abuse stunts a child's emotional growth with threats, rejection, or
What Are the Signs?
There are some simple signs you can look for that will help you
spot child abuse. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Child
Welfare Information Gateway gives these tips to look for:
Does the child seem like he or she is always looking for
something bad to happen? Is he passive or overly compliant? Has she
had a sudden change in behavior? Does the parent blame the child
for most of their problems? Asks for harsh physical discipline when
their child misbehaves? When the child and parent are together, are
they separated and don't look at each other?
These may be signs that abuse is present. There are also
specific red flags to look for when abuse is suspected.
Physical- A child may have unexplained
injuries, doesn't want to leave to go home, or is frightened of
Neglect- A child steals food or begs for more,
isn't wearing appropriate clothing for the weather, or is always
dirty and has a strong body odor.
Sexual- A child has difficulty walking or
sitting, experiences sudden changes in their appetite, or may
demonstrate unusual or sophisticated sexual knowledge.
Emotional- A child demonstrates extreme
emotional behaviors (super aggressive or overly passive), acts too
mature or too childish, or does not show any attachment to their
These signs are not always connected to abuse, but if you see
one or more of these in a child, consider the possibility of
What Can I Do?
Prevent Child Abuse America says that one way
to help stop child abuse before it starts is to help reduce stress
on families. Lend a helping hand and be a friend to parents who
need it. Get to know neighbors and families of your kids and show
them that you are there for them.
If you suspect abuse has already occurred, make sure to report
it. Most states have their own numbers to call, and Childhelp USA
has a national Child Abuse Hotline that operates 24/7
We see in Matthew 18 just how much Jesus loves children. All
kids deserve protection. If you suspect something, report it, and
be the voice for a child who needs it.
Not too long ago, I read another statistic that made my heart
break. A recent article by the New York Times says that children with
disabilities are four times more likely to be attacked physically
and three times more likely to be attacked sexually. Abuse is more
prevalent with these special kids. We have tips on how to help develop
ministry to kids with disabilities, so you can give these kids
a safe place to come and feel loved.