Menstuff® has compiled the following information on Reporting
Know the Warning Signs of
Abuse in Public Places
Abuse and Maltreatment
Some questions and answers about
Impact from False
Things You Can Do to Prevent
Related Issues: Talking With Kids
About Tough Issues, Abuse,
Child Maltreatment, Children,
Ritual Abuse, Sexual
Abuse, Sexual Harassment,
Violence, Women's Violence and
Books - Abuse -
Boys, Abuse -
Children, Abuse -
MPD, Abuse -
Harassment, and Women's
& Periodicals - on Child, Elder, Emotional,
Religious, and Sexual Abuse and Trauma
Sticker - Make the World Safe for Children
Know the Warning Signs of Abuse
Children who are abused may show physical and behavioral signs. They
- Nervous around adults or afriad of certain adults.
- Reluctant to go home (coming to school early or staying late,
- Very passive and withdrawn - or aggressive and
- Tired a lot, or they may complain of nightmares or not
- Fearful and anxious.
Abused children may also show sudden changes in behavior or school
performance. These signs don't prove that a child is being abused.
But they could be a signal that the child and his or her family need
Some signs of physical abuse:
- Unexplained burns, bruises, black eyes or other injuries.
- Apparent fear of a parent or caretaker
- Faded bruises or healing injuries after missing school
Some signs of sexual abuse:
- Difficulty walking or sitting, or other indications of injury
in the genital area
- Sexual knowledge or behavior beyond what is normal for the
- Running away from home
Some signs of emotional abuse:
- Acting overly mature or immature for the child's age.
- Extreme changes in behavior
- Delays in physical or emotional development
- Attempted suicide
- Lack of emotional attachment to the parent
Some signs of neglect.
- Missing school a lot
- Begging for or stealing money for food
- Lacking needed medical or dental care
- Being frequently dirty
- Using alcohol or other drugs
- Saying there is no one at home to take care of him or
Also, know the signs of an abusive adult. Consider the possibility
of abuse if a parent or caretaker:
- Seems unconcerned about the child's welfare at school or at
- Denies problems at school or at home - or blames the child for
- Sees the child as worthless or as a burden
- Avoids discussing the child's injuries, or gives conflicting
explanations for them
- Abuses alcohol or other drugs
- Seems isolated from other parents and school, and community
- Uses harsh physical discipline or asks other caretakers to use
- Depends on the child for emotional support
- Seems indifferent to the child
- Seems secretive or tries to isolate the child from other
- Frequently blames, belittles or insults the child.
Abuse in Public Places
If you see a child being abused in public, do what you can to
- Divert the adult's attention: Start a conversation with
the adult. Offer sympathy. For example, you could say, "Shopping
with children can really try your patience, can't it?"
- Talk to the Child: If the child is acting out or
misbehaving, start a friendly conversation to distract him or
- Priase the parent or child: Find something
positive to say about the child or the parent. For
example: "That's a pretty dress your daughter is wearing.
Where did you get it?"
- Offer to Help: For example, if a child has been
left unattended in a grocery cart, stay near him or her until a
- Avoid Negative Looks or Comments: This may only
increase the adult's anger, making things worse for the
Reporting Child Abuse and Maltreatment
If you suspect abuse, report it - it's the right thing to do.
- Reporting abuse could save a life. Children die every day from
injuries caused by child abuse. Often, someone was aware of the
abuse, but didn't report it.
- Abusive families need help. Reporting abuse can help connect
families with counseling and services. This may help relieve a
family's stress - and prevent future abuse.
- The cycle of abuse can be stopped. Victims of abuse who
receive counseling and treatment are less likely to become abusers
or have other problems as they grow up.
- It may be your legal responsibility. Most states have laws
requiring anyone who works with children (teachers, nurses, social
workers, doctors, etc.) to report abuse.
When a child tells an adult that he or she has been sexually
abused, the adult may feel uncomfortable and may not know what to say
or do. The following guidelines should be used when responding to
children who say they have been sexually abused:
What to Say
- If a child even hints in a vague way that sexual abuse has
occurred, encourage him or her to talk freely. Don't make
- Show that you understand and take seriously what the child is
saying. Child and adolescent psychiatrists have found that
children who are listened to and understood do much better than
those who are not. The response to the disclosure of sexual abuse
is critical to the child's ability to resolve and heal the trauma
of sexual abuse.
- Assure the child that they did the right thing in telling. A
child who is close to the abuser may feel guilty about revealing
the secret. The child may feel frightened if the abuser has
threatened to harm the child or other family members as punishment
for telling the secret.
- Tell the child that he or she is not to blame for the sexual
abuse. Most children in attempting to make sense out of the abuse
will believe that somehow they caused it or may even view it as a
form of punishment for imagined or real wrongdoings.
- Finally, offer the child protection, and promise that you will
promptly take steps to see that the abuse stops.
What to Do
- Report any suspicion of child abuse. If the abuse is within
the family, report it to the local Child Protection Agency. If the
abuse is outside of the family, report it to the police or
district attorney's office. Individuals reporting in good faith
are immune from prosecution. The agency receiving the report will
conduct an evaluation and will take action to protect the
- Parents should consult with their pediatrician or family
physician, who may refer them to a physician who specializes in
evaluating and treating sexual abuse. The examining doctor will
evaluate the child's condition and treat any physical problem
related to the abuse, gather evidence to help protect the child,
and reassure the child that he or she is all right.
- Usually, the child should also have a psychiatric evaluation
to find out how the sexual abuse has affected them, and to
determine whether ongoing professional help is necessary for the
child to deal with the trauma of the abuse. The child and
adolescent psychiatrist can also provide support to other family
members who may be upset by the abuse.
- While most allegations of sexual abuse made by children are
true, some false accusations may arise in custody disputes and in
other situations. Occasionally, the court will ask a child and
adolescent psychiatrist to help determine whether the child is
telling the truth, or whether it will hurt the child to speak in
court about the abuse.
- When a child is asked as to testify, special
considerations--such as videotaping, frequent breaks, exclusion of
spectators, and the option not to look at the accused--make the
experience much less stressful.
- Adults, because of their maturity and knowledge, are always
the ones to blame when they abuse children. The abused children
should never be blamed.
- When a child tells someone about sexual abuse, a supportive,
caring response is the first step in getting help for the child
and reestablishing their trust in adults.
Reprinted with permission by the American Academy
of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP). The above information is
presented for educational purposes only, and it is not a substitute
for informed medical advice or training. Please do not use this
information to diagnose or treat a mental health problem without
consulting a qualified health or mental health care
Editor's Note: Fathers whose wives or
girlfriends are abusive or neglectful of their children and fail to
report the abuse to authorities are often treated more harshly by the
judicial system than the actual perpetrator. Lack for action to
protect your children may result in prison time. It also may result
in you being charged as the actual abuser. And, while things are
changing as society realizes that over 62% of all child abuse is
committed by women, that risk remains. However, not reporting it and
the authorities finding out about it can almost guarantee charges
against you and the loss of contact with your children.
Some questions and answers about
Who should I report to? Call your state's child protective
services agency. (You can call and not give your name.) Check
your phone book or call the Childhelp USA National Child Abuse
Hotline at 800.4.A.CHILD (800.422.4453)
What happens when a report is made? The process varies from
state to state. In general:
- An investigator may visit the home and interview the child,
the parents or other caretakers.
- The investigator helps determine whether the child is being
abused or at risk for abuse.
- The case may be referred to social services or to juvenile,
family or criminal court.
How will the child be protected? If abuse is occurring in
- The child may be temporarily removed from the home.
- The child may go to live with relatives or a fost family.
- The family may be required to seek counseling or other
serivces to help prevent future abuse.
If the parents don't cooperate with these requirements, they could
risk losing custody of the child permanently.
Will the abuser be punished? It depends. Often, the goal is
to help the abuser break the cycle of abuse, so the family can stay
together. In some cases, the abuser may face criminal charges.
(Editor's Note: Remember, that if you are the partner of the
abuser and don't report the abuse, you too may face criminal
I reported abuse, and nothing happened. What else can I do?
Keep in mind that you may not have the legal right to know what
steps were taken to protect the child. If you are still concerned
about the child, you can help in other ways:
- Talk to the child's teacher, a school counselor or a leader of
the family's faith community. They may be in a position to reach
out to the family.
- Offer support to the family, if it's appropriate. Offer to
help with child care, chores, etc.
- Be kind and supportive to any child you suspect is being
abused or neglected at home.
And, keep reporting the abuse until the situation is resolved.
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