What is child abuse?
There are 5 types of child abuse:
Physical Abuse: Physical injury that results in substantial harm to the child.
Sexual Abuse: Sexual conduct harmful to a child’s mental, emotional, or physical welfare. This can include indecency, exposure, pornography, or physical contact.
Neglect: Failure to provide needed clothing, shelter, food, medical care or supervision such that the child’s health, safety, and wellbeing are threatened.
Emotional Abuse: Inflicting mental or emotional injury to a child that results in observable or material impairment.
Family Violence: An act by a member of the household or family against another member that is a threat that reasonably places the member in fear of imminent physical harm.
Who are the perpetrators of child abuse?
More than 90% of the time, child abuse is perpetrated by someone the child and family knows and trusts. There is no one type of person who harms children. Perpetrators of abuse may be in positions of authority or have easy access to children through a professional or volunteer role. Children may also abuse other children. Most often the perpetrator is someone we would least expect.
What is grooming?
Grooming is when a perpetrator builds a relationship with a child and family and builds trust. Grooming makes it difficult to escape the abuse and keeps the child from telling, as he/she likes the person and feels loyalty to him/her. It makes the child feel that it is his/her fault. At times, power and authority is used as a tool. It is important to recognize when grooming may be occurring; once a child is groomed, they internalize the abuse as their own fault, making the possibility of them telling someone minimal. Some signs of grooming to look for:
- Buying the child gifts/giving the child money
- Finding excuses for one-on-one time with the child
- Texting or conversing with the child as an equal
- Treating the child as more special than other children
- Viewing child when nude or exposing child to nudity/pornography
- Excessive appropriate touching/inappropriate touching
- Talking about sexual activity with a child
My child tells me everything. Wouldn’t he/she have told me if abuse was happening?
Most children do not easily disclose abuse. In fact 73% of children do not tell anyone about their abuse for more than a year. Abusers manipulate children into keeping the abuse a secret. Children feel helpless to disclose the abuse, sometimes due to the fact that the abuser has told them many reasons why the child shouldn’t tell.
Some reasons why a child may not tell include:
- The abuser is a trusted friend/family member; the child thinks no one will believe him/her
- The child feels ashamed or embarrassed
- The abuser has threatened the child or the child’s family
- The abuser blames the child; the child feels responsible and doesn’t want to get in trouble
- The abuser bribes the child
- The child likes/loves his/her abuser and doesn’t want the abuser to get in trouble
If my child will not tell me about how abuse how can I know if something is happening?
Some signs to look for in a child suffering from abuse are:
- Child acts out sexually or behaviorally
- Child develops venereal disease and infections
- Child has frequent fears, anxieties, nightmares
- Child’s behavior reverts to outgrown behaviors (i.e. child begins wetting the bed again)
- Child has poor self-esteem or depression
- Major change in personality, mood, eating, sleeping, or school attendance or performance
- Adolescents may run away, commit crimes, or abuse drugs and/or alcohol
- Adolescents become withdrawn and depressed
- Adolescents are self-injurious or suicidal
These symptoms are not meant to be a checklist but to serve as possible indicators of abuse. It is important to note that many times children and adolescents display no symptoms (over 1/3 of confirmed cases). For this reason, it is important to do whatever you can to prevent and educate your children about abuse. Talk to your children about body safety. Empower them to say “no” and what to do in uncomfortable situations. Ensure that children know the correct names for their private parts. They should know to tell you or another trusted adult if someone has made them uncomfortable. If you can’t see the symptoms of abuse, giving your child the opportunity for open dialogue can make all the difference in preventing and treating sexual abuse.
I have suspicions that a child has been abused. What should I do?
The most important thing you can do is to report the suspected abuse to the appropriate authorities. Hope and healing cannot begin until someone speaks up for the child. By reporting any suspicions you are doing just that. In Texas, every adult age 18 and over is required by law to report any suspicion of child abuse.
If a child discloses abuse to you, avoid responding with strong emotion as this can cause a child to shut down. Believe the child and let them know they did the right thing in telling you. Then, report to the authorities. For more training in recognizing and reporting child abuse visit https://cacgc.org/education/. We offer free in depth training!
To report abuse call 1-800-252-5400 or visit texasabusehotline.org. If you believe a child is in immediate danger call 911.
My child has been abused. Will this affect his/her mental health?
Common mental health issues that plague children who have experienced abuse include:
- Depression – Victims are 3-5 times more likely to suffer from depression.
- Trauma disorders, including PTSD
- Distorted body image – eating disorders
- Low self-esteem and poor social skills
- Poor development and immaturity
- Anger and hostility
- Inability to trust
With specialized trauma treatment, however, victims of abuse are able to find hope and healing and go on to lead healthy, happy lives.
Does my child need therapy?
Therapy is not necessary in all cases of abuse, but it can be very helpful for many children. Although sometimes parents feel they would like their child to just forget about what happened and move on, this may actually increase the stress on a child. When the situation is handled in a direct and sensitive way, the negative effects on the child can be reduced. It is important that victims receive specialized trauma treatment by therapists trained in treating trauma in children. With consistent attendance, most children are able to successfully complete therapy over the course of a few months. Trauma therapy, free of charge, may be available to your child if they have experienced abuse. Reach out to your family advocate for details.
What if my child has been a victim of abuse in the past?
If your child has been a victim of child abuse and you need help call us today at 903-957-0440 and ask to speak to a family advocate. You and your family may be eligible for free support and services.
I work for a school or child serving organization. Do you offer training?
We offer a variety of free training for schools, daycares, and child serving organizations that meet the training requirements in the Family Code. For more information visit https://cacgc.org/education/.