By, Kristi Sveum MSW, LCSW
If you’re reading this blog post right now, you may be in a bit of panic mode. It’s really, really scary to think about your child being abused. So, let’s start with the first thing you should do is to take a long, deep breath.
*Now, I will pause to make sure you have a moment to take a deep breath.*
Ok, let’s talk a little bit about child abuse and neglect. Because that’s step two. Getting educated. And you’re already doing that by reading this blog post which is GREAT. So, let’s talk a little bit about what you might be noticing.
Types of Child Abuse and Neglect
There are four main types of child abuse: physical, sexual, emotional, and neglect. The official definition according to Missouri law is “any physical injury, sexual abuse, or emotional abuse inflicted on a child other than by accidental means by those responsible for the child’s care, custody, and control.”
Signs of Child Abuse and Neglect
Every situation is different. And to be honest, it can be difficult sometimes to know if a child is being abused. Maybe you’ve noticed some of the signs below. Or maybe you just have a gut feeling. This list isn’t exactly a checklist where if someone has x number of symptoms, they’ve been abused. It’s just a list of things that may indicate abuse has occurred.
I know, some of these things can show up even if there is no abuse happening. But read through the list and then put it in the context of the bigger picture. What else do you know about your child?
Signs of physical abuse include but are not limited to:
Welts, scratches, or burns
Inappropriate clothing for the weather
Withdrawn or depressed behaviors
Being afraid to go home
Unusually avoidant of physical contact from others
Aggressive or angry behavior that’s not typical for the child
Drug or alcohol abuse
Self-destructive or suicidal behavior
Signs of Emotional Abuse
- Excessive and aggressive or unreasonable demands of the child
- Constant criticism, belittling, insulting, rejecting, teasing, and other verbal attacks
- Also includes not providing love, support, or guidance
- Acts include threatening, frightening, always placing blame on the child, etc.
Sexual abuse is characterized by:
- Inappropriate interest in or knowledge of sexual acts
- Nightmares and bedwetting
- Fear of a particular person or family member
- Drastic changes in appetite
- Over compliance or excessive aggression
- Rejection of own genitals or body
- Self-injury or suicidal behavior
Some signs of neglect are:
- Unsuitable clothing for the weather
- Dirty or un-bathed appearance
- Extreme hunger
- Apparent lack of supervision
What do I do if I suspect my child is being abused or neglected?
What if I don’t have all the information?
I once had a client tell me about a friend who told her that her dad was “beating her.” The only information I could gather from my client was the name of her friend and the school she goes to. I was able to make a hotline call with just that limited amount of information. Investigators will work to piece together the information you do not have. People who are not mandated reporters may remain anonymous. Therefore, they can keep their identity confidential so the abuser does not know who called and retaliate.
Who is a mandated reporter of child abuse or neglect?
You should also know that someone else may call the hotline number if they suspect a child has been abused or neglected.
In Missouri, physicians, nurses, social workers, daycare staff, teachers, ministers, and law enforcement officials are mandated, reporters. In fact, a mandated reporter also includes any other person who is responsible for a child’s wellbeing. Mandated reporters are legally obligated to report suspected child abuse to the Children’s Division hotline. Failure to report is a class A misdemeanor. The guilty party may face up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2500, either, or both. So, if your child tells one of these people, they are required by law to make a report.
This is important to understand, because you as a parent may be afraid of what happens if a report is made (we’ll talk about that in my next blog post), but know that mandated reporters are going to error on the side of over-reporting. It’s not that they want to get people in trouble. It’s that they’re mandated by law to make those calls. And those laws are in place to try to keep as many children as possible safe.
Begin trauma treatment for child abuse and neglect in Columbia, MO
If you suspect your child has been abused or neglected. Please report what has happened. Then, please contact a therapist to give them the support they will need to heal from this trauma. To get your child counseling at our office in Columbia, MO, follow these steps
About the Author:
Kristi Sveum is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and offers counseling services at Aspire Counseling. She has years of experience working with children and teenagers who have been abused or through other traumatic situations. Kristi is passionate about helping children find a sense of safety no matter what has happened to them in the past.