Child Abuse

What is it and what do I do if I know or suspect it is happening to someone I know?

It can be a scary thing when you suspect or know that a child is being abused. It is often hard to determine if what you are seeing qualifies as abuse and what types of action to take to ensure the child or children are safe. One thing we know for certain is that taking risks is a huge part in preventing child abuse and we teach people how to empower themselves to take risks in speaking up, voicing your concerns, and making a report when necessary. Let us help by participating in one of our trainings that can equip you with skills to learn about and identify types and signs of abuse, prevention strategies that WORK, and how to handle a child disclosing abuse to you.

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What are the signs?

There are many signs and symptoms of child abuse. Whether you witnessed an event or indicators in a child that leads you to suspect or know child abuse is occurring, it is your responsibility to make a report.

Behavioral clues to watch for include: fear, anxiety, phobias, nightmares and sleeping problems, bed wetting, social withdrawal, hyperactivity, distractibility and poor concentration, chronic school absenteeism or truancy, regressive behavior for age, depression and passivity, fear of parent or caregiver, aggressive behavior with others, destructive behaviors towards objects or pets, substance abuse, self-harm, sexualized behavior, avoidance of dressing, symptoms of PTSD, overly compliant, and more. While one or more of the indicators alone may not meet criteria to report, there are many red flags to watch for in addition to noticeable behavioral or physical symptoms. 

Symptom Clues include: headaches, severe abdominal pain, frequent illnesses, abnormal weight gain or loss, unexplained symptoms, bruising or cuts especially in soft-tissue areas of the body, poor hygiene, failure to thrive, defensive injuries, bites, burns, traumatic hair loss, and more. Red flags with injuries occur when an explanation is either not present or does not match the pattern, timing, or developmental ability of the child. Watch for an explanation that continuously changes or for instances where the child is constantly blamed for the repeated injuries. It should be a red flag when there is a delay in seeking medical treatment and/or a frequent change in primary care providers.

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Types of Child Abuse

There are many forms of child abuse to be aware of. Below is a list of different types of abuse and a description of each type listed.

Physical Abuse - a non-accidental physical injury to a child by a parent, caregiver, or other person. Physical abuse can include punching, beating, kicking, biting, shaking, throwing, stabbing, choking, hitting (with a hand, stick, strap, or other object), burning, or otherwise causing physical harm.2 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. Injuries from physical abuse could range from minor bruises to severe fractures or death.

Sexual Abuse - includes activities by a parent or other caregiver such as fondling a child’s genitals, penetration, incest, rape, sodomy, indecent exposure, and exploitation through prostitution or the production of pornographic materials.

Emotional Abuse - a pattern of behavior that impairs a child’s emotional development or sense of self-worth. This may include constant criticism, threats, or rejection as well as withholding love, support, or guidance.

Neglect - the failure of a parent or other caregiver to provide for a child’s basic needs. A family’s failure to use available information and resources to care for their child may put the child’s health or safety at risk, and child welfare intervention could be required.

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What should I do if I know of or suspect abuse?

A safe childhood is an adult responsibility. Report abuse if: you suspect it, you discover it, or a child discloses abuse.

To make a report, a Social Worker in our community is available 24/7 by calling 530.458.0280

Do I need to give my name to make a report?

When making a report, you do not need to give your name unless you are a professional that is required to report suspected abuse, such as a Mandated Reporter. Anonymous reports are allowed, however it is very helpful to give your name and contact information if additional information is needed. 

What should I do if a child discloses abuse to me?

If a child discloses abuse, it is extremely important actively listen without allowing your own emotions to show. Children need to be supported and they need someone who will listen without judgement or needing proof. Support them by listening carefully and asking open-ended questions, such as "then what happened?" or "tell me more." Promptly report the disclosure to Law Enforcement, Child Protective Services, or both. We have information available for people who have experienced a disclosure and how to treat a disclosure. For more information, please contact us!