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Child Abuse, Plus Week in Review

Dear Elizabeth,
What should I do if I suspect a child is being physically or sexually abused?
Elizabeth's Tips
Elizabeth Sanchez
Elizabeth Sanchez
  • Look for signs of abuse, such as changes in personal appearance, behavior, school performance, social interactions, and sleeping and eating patterns.
  • Talk freely with the child, remain calm and reassure the child it is not his or her fault.
  • Childís safety is the first priority. You have a responsibility to report abuse.
  • Contact child abuse hotline, your medical professional and seek out expert help.
Week in Review
Donít forget about the great things that we learned this week:
Expert Advice
Dr. Charles Sophy
Dr. Charles Sophy
Child Psychiatrist
Child abuse is defined as any recent failure to act, on the part of a parent or caretaker, that results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation. It is also an act that places a child at imminent risk or harm.

Recognizing the Signs of Sexual Abuse
Recognizing that a child is a victim of sexual abuse can be tricky, as itís not always obvious and 30% of the victims never disclose to anyone. In addition, the younger the victim, the more unaware he or she is of his or her victimization and itís more unrecognizable. In addition, 80% of sexually abused children initially deny or recant if there is an admission.

Here are some signs that a child may be the victim of sexual abuse:
  • Disheveled appearances, such as offensive body odor or dirty clothes.
  • Change in the childís performance or behavior at school.
  • Sleep and appetite changes Ė children may sleep or eat a lot more than they did before, or conversely, they may not sleep or eat much less.
  • Emotional/behavioral changes Ė Is the child suddenly isolating him or herself, or becoming aggressive? Social interaction changes.
If You Suspect AbuseÖ
If you have suspicions a child is being abused, you must talk freely with that child. Parents, caregivers and teachers should remain calm and reassuring to the child that it is not their fault. In addition, being proactive is crucial.
  • Immediately seek medical examination.
  • Follow appropriate recommendations made from exam.
  • Always call your local child abuse hotline, both to report and or to have a consultation for next best steps.
  • YOU HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO REPORT IT. Remember, mandated reporters such as doctors, nurses, and teachers MUST report child abuse. Here is what needs to be done to report child abuse:
  • Reach out to your local child abuse hotline.
  • Depending on the child and their needs in the situation next steps can always be identified by the help of an appropriate medical provider.
  • And SAFETY is of utmost concern, therefore seeking out expert advice is key.
Asking Your Child If They Are Abused
If itís your own child, itís a different conversation usually than it would be if it wasnít your child, but again, how you approach a child also depends on the age of the child. A younger child may have a discussion with you through play. You may see it in their behavior with their dolls or their aggression or whatever. With older children, youíre able to engage and have that discussion with them. Stay calm, reassure them itís not about fault, itís not about blame. Always seek appropriate professional advice and guidance if you are not sure about how and when to open this dialogue.

Asking When the Child Is Not Your Own
These situations are always tough, as parents and caregivers may not want to hear this information about their child. Therefore, always assess the positives and the negatives of opening that dialogue with another family, and if unsure, reach out to your local child abuse hotline/medical provider or other appropriate official.

Recognizing the Signs of Physical Abuse
Physical abuse can be in the form of physical, educational or emotional. Signs and situations can include:
  • A child who seems to have inadequate food, clothing, hygiene and/or shelter.
  • Reckless endangerment of a child, such as driving drunk with a child in your car, or unattended.
  • Refusal to provide necessary healthcare for child. Abandoning a child.
  • Not providing them care or refusing them entry into home, without arranging for appropriate services/support.
  • Failure to enroll child in school/truancy.
  • Exposure of child to spousal abuse.
  • Allowing child access and/or use to drugs or alcohol.
  • Failure to intervene in a child's negative social behavior.
If You Discover Your Child Has Been Abused
Seeking counseling in these types of situations is warranted however, again, ensuring safety for a child is the first priority. Then, as the reporting and exams begin, counseling should be a high priority in that timeline.

Depending on the situation, counseling could be individual counseling or family counseling or behavior intervention. Each case is different as perpetrators may be in the family or close family friends, which makes it a very difficult situation. Please allow your medical professionals to make the appropriate medical recommendation for your particular situation.

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Topic: Health & Safety
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