Be on lookout for these danger signs of child abuse
By Doreen Nagle
"It takes a village to raise a child ... " is especially true when it comes to the protection of children who may not be able to protect themselves. April is National Child Abuse Prevention month; you can do your part by being aware of signs of child neglect and abuse in children in your "village."
Aside from the obvious physical consequences of violence toward a child, experts have identified three areas that make the abuse even more terrifying:
• Unpredictability of the spanking or beating. The child never knows what will set an unpredictable parent off.
• Uncontrolled anger by the adult who is abusing the child. The adult may be angry at something that has nothing to do with the child, but since the child is an easier target, he or she will take anger out on the child.
• Fear of spankings and abuse are used to control the child. While an abusive parent may believe the spanking and other abuse are discipline, it only teaches the child to fear the parents. There are many nonviolent tools available for teaching a child discipline.
It is not true that the only "real" signs of child abuse produce a bruised and bloody child. Physical violence is only one form of abuse; according to the experts, neglect and emotional abuse are also signs.
Signs of emotional abuse include children who are:
• Frequently belittled, shamed or humiliated.
• Called offensive names.
• Told their parent is sorry they were born or other messages of unworthiness.
• Consistently punished, threatened or bullied.
Parents punish the child by withdrawing love or not offering physical signs of affection.
Child neglect (vs. abuse) occurs when a child's basic needs are not tended to. More challenging to spot, here are some common signs:
• A child who has not been washed for a period of time, often with offensive body odor.
• Clothes that are frequently disheveled, dirty and/or in disrepair.
• Noticeable lack of supervision. Perhaps there is a child in the neighborhood who seems to have no curfew or is allowed to be outside a long time after everyone else has gone home or very young children playing outside without an adult to watch over them.
• A child who repeatedly doesn't seem to have enough food and is frequently hungry or repeatedly asks others for food.
• School-age children who are frequently late to school and/or have chronic unexcused absences.
• Children who have chronic unattended physical concerns such as runny noses, coughs, allergies.