All you need to know to protect your child from abuse

child abuse

Protect your child from abuse: We talk about child abuse or we have at least heard the word child abuse. We also at time have few mis-consumptions about child abuse that can blind us from the truth.

Mis-conception like abuse happens only in socially weak families. Or Abuse is only when there is a broken bone or a bruise. Or only someone who has been abused become an abuser.

Another complex mis-conception is that all abusers are bad. Well actually not all are bad. Sometimes an abuse happens with out the intention to abuse. We ourselves can be abusers at time without realising it.

With all these mis-conceptions it becomes important for us to know what exactly a child abuse is.

So that we are clear about it and more educated to spot and handle it. That way you will effectively try and protect your child from abuse.

Topics Covered in This Blog

What is child abuse

Child abuse is when a person giving care to a child causes injury or pain or causes risk to the child or mistreat the child intentionally. They can do it through their action or also by neglecting to act on a situation. 

To effectively handle child abuse and protect your child from abuse, we need to first increase our awareness on the topic. It is said that over 3 million incidents of child abuse (children under 18 years of age) are reported in the united states alone. 

And while we think of abuse as some perpetration lurking out there in the dark to catch our kids. As per Dr. Kondis the most common type of abuse is parental neglect.

There are many forms of child abuse and we will go in detail of all these types.

The main purpose of this exhaustive blog is to help parents know the various dangers of abuse and the next steps to take if they suspect an abuse. This is key to make your children safe from child abuse and protect your child from abuse.

Child Abuse

What Are the Types of Child Abuse?

Here we will discuss about types of abuse that are out there and how they look like so you can be vigilant while your try to protect your child from abuse.

1.Physical abuse 

Physical abuse is when a parent or caregiver causes physical injuries to a child intentionally. it can be of any type that results in bruises of burns or cuts or scratches on the child’s body.

It is said around 30% of adults have reported being physically abused when they were a child.

What physical abuse looks like?

  • Child sustains Physical injury.  It can be anything from a small cut to lifelong injury. 
  • It can be external injury which is visible like bruises, cuts, burns etc.
  • Physical abuse also constitutes internal injury such as broken bones or muscle sprain or any dislocation.
  • Injuries to the brain that can happen due to physical force such as pushing, showing or hitting also constitutes physical injury.

2.Sexual abuse 

It is any abuse that has a sexual nature to it. It can be by way of acts that involve sexual contact or it can also be non-contact sexual activity.

And it includes right from sharing sexually explicit photos to sex texting or sex talk. It is said that more than 20% of adults have reported to have been sexually abused when they were a child. 

When sexual acts are termed under sexual abuse when it happens between an adult and a child who is less than 18 years of age. In some cases, even and abuse by an older child on a very young child is considered sexual abuse.

What sexual abuse looks like?

  • Making a child view sexual acts or adult rated pictures. 
  • Sex talk or sex texting with a child.
  • Inappropriate exposure of private parts to a child. Or asking the child to expose their private parts. 
  • Touching or indulging in sexual acts with a child. With or without consent.
  • Involving a child to render oral sexual favours to the adult. 
  • Child exploitation, or child prostitution.
  • Watching child pornography. 

Note: Usually most of the sexual abuse cases involves a close or trusted family member. who usually has access to the child and the trust of the child?

The child is mostly lewd into such activity because of the trust the child has on the adult. As parents we need to note that even if it does not involve any physical contact there are a lot of harm that can be done through non-contact sexual abuse. 

Read more in detail in our article How -To Talk to your Teenager about Sexual Abuse

3.Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse happens when the parent or caregiver emotionally rejects the child. thereby causing mental and social development hindrance to the child.

In most of the cases emotional abuse happens over a period of time. Where the adult indulges in a behaviour that has over a period of time made the child feel threatened or worthless or guilty or unlovable.

It is said that around 10% of the adult’s report that they have been emotionally abused as a child.

What emotional abuse looks like?

  • It can be any action that aims at destroying the child’s self-worth.
  • Emotional abuse can be an act where the parent of the caregiver tries to bully or humiliate or belittles the child abilities.
  • It can also be targeting the child’s attributes and character. Also, It can be by name calling, mocking, using abusive language and any form of character assassination. 
  • It can be when the adult is exploiting the child’s vulnerability. By threatening or blackmailing them and subduing them. Acts that make the child feel weak and helpless.
  • Emotional abuse can also be when the adult is overpowering the child, manipulating them or taking advantage of their helplessness and yelling and shouting at them. Or by punishing or insulting them.
  • When the adult rejects or withholds their affection towards the child. or shows no interest in the child or ignores the child’s activities or affection. All these over a period of time causes emotional hurt to the child. 
  • Encouraging children to indulge in criminal behaviour. Or praising a child when they display such behaviour. Or encouraging the child to lie or cheat or be dishonest. 
  • When the parent of the caregiver tries to isolate the child so that they do not indulge in social activities. Or stop them from speaking to other people. Or cause hatred or emotional distance from one spouse or family members. All these ultimately land up hurting the child emotionally. 

 You might be interested in reading our article words you speak.

4.Medical child abuse

This type of abuse happens when the caregiver or the parent over emphasizes on medical care to be given. They land up constantly worrying about their child’s health and self-medicate the child or subject the child to various medical treatments that are not really needed at the point in time.

What medical abuse looks like?

  • Self-medicating the child.
  • Giving way too much medical care where a child is subjected to tests, surgeries or medicines that is not needed.
  • Involving the child in unnecessary cosmetic procedures including plastic surgery etc.
  • Given false information about the child’s medical history to gain medical attention. 
  • Indulging in any other not required medical treatment or procedures under the banner of religion or belief. 

5.Child Neglect

Child Neglect happens when parents fail to take care of the basic needs of the child. Needs such as food, clothing, shelter, education, security. 

The main difference between abuse and neglect is that in abuse it is an ‘act’ that is committed. While in neglect it is the ‘failure to act’ that is the mistake. 

With this understanding let’s look at how each of the below mentioned neglects looks like.

1.Physical neglect and inadequate supervision

Every child needs to be supervised for the child’s safety and wellbeing. Also, the basic provisions of food, clothing and shelter needs to be given to a child. Physical neglect happens when these are not taken care of or neglected. 

What Physical neglect looks like…?
  • Parents or caregivers failing to attend to a child’s needs. Like when they cry out of hunger.
  • Failing to provide adequate clothes appropriate for the season. 
  • Leaving kids off on their own with no supervision. 
  • Providing an unhygienic environment for the child or exposing them to unsafe environments. 
  • Leaving a child with unqualified or incapable caregivers for long period of time. 

2.Emotional neglect

Emotional neglect happens when the parent or caregiver does not give the child the needed emotional support needed for healthy child development.

What emotional neglect looks like?
  • Not attending to the child’s emotional need.
  • Not able to empathise with the child’s feelings. Instead be critical of them.
  • Withholding from showing love and kindness to the child (tough love).
  • Not connecting or spending time with a child and dismissing them when they come to you.
  • Shooing them away when they show or display love towards you. 

3.Medical neglect

Medical neglect is when the parent refuses to act on a medical emergency or need of the child.

What medical neglect looks like?

  • Not taking care of the child when they are sick.
  • Not taking care of their dental or other preventive medical issues that are not emergencies but still needed to be addressed.
  • Ignoring the child’s complaints of aches and pains and not taking them seriously and probed further.
  • Withholding medical treatment or care due to personal beliefs or religious beliefs. 
  • Not following through with the doctor or medical practitioners’ advice or recommendations. 

4.Educational Neglect

Emotional neglect happens when parents or caregiver do not take care of the educational needs of the child. 

What educational neglect looks like?

  • Letting children go to school at will and not worry about their attendance.
  • Not letting or giving opportunities to children to gain academic success (even if it is within one’s capability to do so).
  • Preventing or discouraging children from receiving basic education or attending school.
  • Not concerned or worried about children’s school work or grades or any activities of the school.

6.Other types of abuse

There is also other type of abuses which are called out as ‘child abuse’ in few places/states only. While they are not considered as child abuse unanimously across all countries it is still important to know how these abuses look like so that we are wiser as parents when we give to our children. 

How these abuses look like…

  • It is child abuse when adult indulges in for making selling of illegal drugs in the presence of a child.
  • When the caregiver indulges in excessive alcohol or drugs while taking care of the child. 
  • If an adult lets or forces a child to consume alcohol or illegal drugs it is considered as child abuse.
  • If a pregnant woman indulges in taking illegal drugs during pregnancy then such act is also considered as child abuse. 

How-To SPOT Signs of abuse in your child?

Below are different things or sings you can watch out for to spot abuse in your child.

Do remember sometime abuse can come from the other parent or care giver and sometimes from your own self with or without knowing.

So know how to SPOT the different types of abuse which will be the second step next to prevention to protect your child from abuse.

Physical abuse

Any injury that you spot in your child needs to be probed and have a satisfactory explanation. If you find suspicious injuries coupled behaviour changes such as resistance and fear. You need to probe deeper to rule out abuse.

Signs of Physical abuse in a child:

  • Any suspicious visible injuries on your child.
  • If a child has not yet crossed the milestone of rolling over and crawling. Then any injury the baby might have should be considered suspicious.
  • If your kid has frequent injuries on their body. And most of the time termed as accident.
  • If the injuries and the explanation given to you does not correlate or makes logical sense.
  • Has a patten of when the injuries appear. E.g. During vacation or school holidays. Or only during school days. Etc.
  • The shape of the injury is distinctive and not like an accidental scrap.
  • Reports to you of physical abuse.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse is a little with difficult to spot than physical abuse. But for a watchful eye with the drastic change in your child’s behaviour you can suspect sexual abuse.

Signs of Sexual abuse in a child:

  • Blood spot or stains on child’s undergarments.
  • Child shows bruises or pain in their genital area.
  • Exabits sexually transmitted diseases related symptoms or infections such as urinary trach infection.
  • Has difficulty sitting, or walking and can have bowel problems
  • Reports to you on sexual abuse.
  • Tries inappropriate sexual contact with other children.
  • Shows resistance to changing cloths and is a bit edgy suddenly.

Related read How -To Talk to your Teenager about Sexual Abuse

Emotional abuse

Emotional abuse in most cases happens over a period of time. When child is subjected to abusive behaviour by the parent or care giver. So, in most of the cases you may not find sudden and drastic change in your child’s behaviour like that of sexual and physical abuse. 

Signs of emotional abuse in a child:

  • Children who have delays in development or speech disorder when medically they are fit and have no hindrance.
  • Children many have bed wetting or pant wetting issues.
  • Appetite fluctuation that leads to obesity or undernourishment.
  • May display many anxieties, phobias or have sleep issues.
  • Tries to over compensate or desperately seek for attention and affection.
  • Indulge in habits like thumb sucking or self-rocking or biting.

Related reads are anxiety in babies

Medical abuse

To spot signs of medical abuse you need to look at the issue from what the parent or the care giver is telling to what your medical practitioner is advising and the medical history.

Signs of medical abuse in a child:

  • If the child is being take to numerous physicians and received multiple treatments.
  • If child is given excessive medicines prescribed by different physicians.
  • When the health of the child looks contradictory to what is being told. Where you suspect that either the symptoms are being exaggerated or fabricated.
  • If the parent of caregiver is always insisting on multiple tests or treatments. When the physician is resisting.
  • If you have suspicion that the symptoms that your child is displaying is probably induce by the care taker and not happened accidently or naturally due to ill health.

Child Neglect

To spot signs of child neglect one needs to understand that there is no single indicator that can sound off an alarm. It is the overall appearance and behaviour of the child that can point to child neglect.

Signs of child neglect

  • The overall appearance of the child shows neglect. Like ill fitting, dirty or wrinkled cloths. Cloths not appropriate for the weather. Etc.
  • Child looks under nourished or is following very unhealthy eating habits.
  • The child has hygiene issues, poor physical and dental hygiene.
  • Child shows little or no interest in academic and parents are also not concerned about it.
  • Seems unhappy, sleepy or tired and states having too much responsibility tacking care of others at home.

.

Other common signs the abuse victim displays are…

kid caught lying to teacher
  • Have sudden notable behaviour changes.
  • Sudden change (avoidance) in wanting or wishing to go to a place. (where abuse took place). Or avoids certain situations e.g. Going to a hobby class, or taking the metro train etc.
  • Avoiding the abuser or showing strong resistance to them (when earlier they were friendly)
  • Make up stories and inconsistent stories when you ask them for an explanation of your suspension.
  • Suddenly averse to mingling with others especially adults. 
  • Starts to hurt or cut themselves or show destructive patterns. 
  • Young children can show a reverse in developmental milestones.
  • A normally happy or chatty kid suddenly goes silent and withdrawn. 
  • Start to show bullying or abusive behaviour towards others. Especially people younger to them.

Some common issues a child abuse victim may suffer

Child abuse leads to physical, behavioural, emotional and mental problems in a child.

While some children with strong social ties or resilience skills or those who were able to shut the memories out can cope and even overcome the issues of child abuse.

However, though who are not able to cope up or overcome the trauma, may suffer and listed below…

  1. Extreme emotions or displays aggression or withdrawal.  
  2. Can manifest as anti-social behaviour. (right from lying to violence and vandalism)
  3. Anxiety, depression and in extreme cases lead to suicidal thoughts. 
  4. Can suffer from eating disorders, body image issues and lack of self-confidence. 
  5. Show distrust and has poor peer relationships.
  6. Older children can resort to substance abuse as a form of coping mechanism.
  7. Have sleep disturbances, displayed high and unusual self-soothing behaviours such as rapid walking or pacing, banging head or hand to wall, hand-washing etc…)
  8. Behaviour or awareness or knowledge that is disproportionate to their age. Either act too childish or too mature for their age. 
  9. Shows aggression towards pets and other small animals.
  10. They generally talk or art or written expressions such as stories etc has violent or abusive themes. 

Kids who go through stressful situations at home or in school. Or if they go through situations such as separation or a death or illness. They go through immense pressure. They might show behaviour that is outlined above. 

However, when you find inconsistency in your child’s explanation on the bruises that appear on themselves along with behaviour changes especially when every other thing in the environment is as close to normal as it usually is. It has to be a high red alert to you. 

This does not mean that you have to be a bit complacent and not heed to the signs when the child is going through a stressful situation in their immediate environment. 

Any change in behaviour coupled with suspicious physical signs needs to be explored further.

Some related topics you can look into are

  1. How-To SPOT & HELP Eating disorder in your teenager
  2. How-to find out if your teenager is battling depression?
  3. How to deal with aggression and violence in teens

Who causes the abuse – Factors that Influence

An abuser does not go around with the abuser tag on their head or look very mean and go around with a menacing scar on their face.

Most of the time the abuser is known to the child. they might look like any other person and behave decently and might even be a close family friend of yours.

However, abusers can show some signs which can be correlated with a potential of abuse from the person.

In many cases abusers have a history of being abused themselves

Risk factors that make parents abusers are …

  1. Talking excessively negatively about their own children and calling them worthless.
  2. If the parent has a history of abuse when they were kids. 
  3. Parents who show little or no concern or affection towards their child.
  4. Parents who are socially isolated from others and don’t have help and support. 
  5. When parents themselves suffer from some physical or mental illness. 
  6. Shows denial when others point out their behaviour as abusive. 
  7. Tries to blame the child for all the issues or problems they have in life
  8. Parents who are emotionally clingy to the child. They depend on their child for their emotional support. 
  9. Sometimes jealousy and possessiveness can lead a parent to cuts all social ties of the child and keeps them isolated. 
  10. May use harsh discipline tactics and is bound to fits of anger and violence.
  11. Poor parenting skills or lack of understanding of child development and needs of each stage. 
  12. Is battling drugs or alcohol issues and renders poor supervision because of these addictions. 
  13. Parents who always play the guilt card and rely on the child for taking care of them. 
  14. Stressful family situations like job loss, or sickness, separation or death. Can tip a parent towards abusive behaviour towards their child. 
  15. Parents who have stormy relationships with others. Or who rubs the law or authorities in the wrong side. 

Some Related reads you might like

Questionnaire to help you recognize your own abusive behavior. 

Most of the time we parent or children the way we were separated by a parent. If we grew up in a house where templates are flying and screaming, shouting and punishment are a norm. There is a good chance that we will raise our children in the same way.

However, this need not be the case if we know how to recognise this behaviour in ourselves.

Below are a few self-evaluation questionnaires that you can take to know if you have an abusive behaviour. If you want to protect your child from abuse.

Then stop and take the questioner to rule out possibility that you might be the abuser.

  1. Does your child come running home after school or tend to avoid being at home? (No)
  2. Are your children afraid or scared of you? (Yes)
  3. Do you think highly of your child’s ability? Are they living up to your expectations? (No)
  4. Does your child roam freely in the house? If No, do you think they tend to retreat to their room to avoid you? (Yes)
  5. Are you able to control your anger when your child gets irritated? (No)
  6. Can you say confidently that you are emotionally connected with your child? (No)
  7. Your child tries to avoid conversation with you and if they do have, they tend to avoid looking into your eye while talking to you? (Yes)
  8. Does your child readily accept anything you have to say? So, they can silently move away from your presence? (Yes)
  9. Do you often feel overwhelmed and disconnected with your child and want to be left alone and far away from your child? (Yes)
  10. Do you always feel stressed and almost impossible meeting your child’s daily needs? (Yes)
  11. Has people belonging to your close trusted circle highlighted to you their concerns of your behaviour towards your child? (Yes)
  12. Are you getting all the help needed to support you with raising your child? (No)
  13. Are you able to control your emotions or regulate it when you are intoxicated? (No)

Immediate things to do when you suspect child abuse

As a parent it is very painful to know if our child is being abused. But then to protect your child from abuse and all harm is one of our primary responsibilities. 

Also, as a good human it is also our responsibility to report any abuse that we might see or witness or suspect. 

Below are few immediate things you can do if you suspect child abuse. 

  1. Remove your child immediately from the threat. Place the child in a safe place. 
  2. If you have witnessed or suspecting abuse of a child, report to the authorities or discuss with the relevant authorities your suspicions.
  3. Don’t take matters into your own hands. Or confront or threaten the abuser yourself.
  4. Do Not hesitate thinking that you are interfering with people’s family matters. Remember your silence can have devastating consequences for an innocent child. 
  5. Speak to a health care professional if you feel a child might need medical attention.
  6. Call in child abuse hotline in your country to report your suspension. You can also choose to remain anonymous. However, be as detailed as possible on your hunch or suspicion or what you witnessed. For better result in preventing child abuse. 
  7. If you feel you are on the verge of a breakout or fear you might abuse a child. Remove yourself from the situation and seek help. 
  8. Seek support groups or counselling to help you cope with the challenges of raising a child. 
  9. Seek police help based on the severity of the situation. 
  10. It’s wise to err on the side of caution. It is better you are safe than sorry. Remember a report does not mean the child is taken away from the family. Most of the time the family is provided support to overcome the situation. And overall, wellbeing of the child and the parent is looked into. 

 Important read that can help you. Are you a good parent.

Preventive ways to protect your child from abuse

child abuse

Prevention is always better than cure. And your goal should be that you give a safe, secure table and nurturing environment for your children that way you are trying to protect your child from abuse.

Below are a few steps or suggestions that you can take that will help you prevent and protect your child from abuse.

  1. Be present in your child’s life. So that you can pick up the cues much earlier if your child is exposed to abuse.
  2. Give your child the needed love and attention. This will help your child feel secure and comfortable in your presence.
  3. Make sure your family environment is supportive and nurture your child’s sense of self-esteem and self-worth.
  4. Be aware of your flaws, the patterns that you have or your emotional maturity that you possess. Know your triggers so that you will be better equipped to handle your emotions thereby preventing abuse.
  5. Encourage your child to tell you if they are facing any problem. Show empathy when they come to you with a problem. That way your child slowly builds trust to communicate with you all that they are going through.
  6. If you are going through a stressful period. It is important to take care of your wellbeing also. when you are able to handle your anger or stress better there is less likely chances that you would land up abusing your child.
  7. Educate your child about the abuse that is lurking around. In that way your child is aware of what falls under normal behaviour and what is syllabus. and your child can identify and call it out to you when they face it. This includes online safety also.
  8. Teach them the difference between good touch and bad touch. Talk to them about relationships and how a healthy or an unhealthy relationship looks like. That they can say “NO’ without feeling guilty about it and that is the right thing to do.
  9. Take interest to get to know the adults who your child spends time with. same way does a reference check of babysitters of caregivers of your child. Do a surprise visit to your home or day care just to ensure that thighs are fine.
  10. Always provide adequate supervision to a young child. do not let them be alone on their own in their house. in public places be very vigilant and watchful of their whereabouts and their doing
  11. Before permitting your child for sleepovers. Have all the information available with you. Like who will be supervising your child when they are there. How many members are present in the house? The pick-up and drop time and the parents contact number etc. Permit only if you are comfortable.
  12. Teach your child how to slip away from a frightening or threatening situation. Who are their immediate contact points? And how to seek help.
  13. Take effort to participate in neighbourhood activities and make a network with parents in your neighbourhood. In that way you also will be better informed on your neighbourhood safety and can also call in for help or support when in need.
  14. Take all safety measures in your house and neighbourhood to make sure that you provide a safe environment for your child to move around.
  15. Know your child developmental milestones and their needs and cater to them as per the age’s requirement. All needs include food, clothing, education, medical treatment etc. These will ensure that your child growth and development is not hindered.

How to help an abused or neglected child

In spite of your best efforts to protect your child from abuse. You find yourself in such a situation. Below are the things that you can do to help and suppose a child who has been abused. 

  1. First things first ensure that your child is safe. And is not exposed to further harm. Shield and protect your child. Seek help if you feel you or your child needs external help to protect you from the abuser.
  2. If it needs medical attention. Seek that first so your child is out of medical danger. Get help from counsellors or psychiatrist to help your child overcome the trauma of the abuse. 
  3. Hear them out and don’t interrogate. Let them tell you to the extent they like to disclose. Don’t interrupt them while they are talking. Don’t push them too much. Start work with what you have. 
  4. Don’t deny or criticise what they are telling you. Control your emotions and appear calm and composed. So, your child can open up to you. The way you react pretty much defines if your child will open up to you or bottle it inside them.
  5. Let your child feel the emotions they are feeling. Be it a loud cry or anger let them vent it out. Be stable and strong for them and stand by them through it. 
  6. Empathise with them. Feel their pain and fear. Be of calm reassurance to them. Let your actions speak of the love and concern you have for them. And the interest you have to make it better for them. 
  7. Reassure your child that they have not done anything wrong. And they need not feel guilty or ashamed of themself. 
  8. You need to be objective in the situation and don’t carry guilt or blame yourself for it. Parental guilt will make you choose wrong decisions and your unhappiness might be picked up by your child. And they might land up blaming themself for your unhappiness also.
  9. Show unconditional love to yourself and your child. They need to feel secure in your love and nurturing. That will help them heal their wounds and become resilient.
  10. If your child is big you can also talk to your child on the actions you are taking so your child has a buying to it. It also helps them see that you believe in them and taking steps forward to help them. If you child resists your actions reason out with your child so that they don’t feel vulnerable or regret telling you.  

Related reads that you might like

Conclusion

Not all behaviour changes point to abuse in a child. But as parents it is wise that we look into all our suspicions. The earlier we identify abuse the easier it is to prevent and help our child get over the abuse.

And when your child calls out an abuse it is a good enough reason for you to look deeper into it to protect your child from abuse.

Don’t feel bad or guilty and blame yourself for the abuse that has happened. Be strong for your child, be supportive of them and seek the needed medical care or counselling to help your child. Love them unconditionally and slowly you will be able to help your child overcome the abuse.

God Bless!!

Disclaimer:

I would like to make a disclaimer here. I am not a medical practitioner and you can read more about me, my qualification and experience or that of my team in the About Us page.

However, I am a mother growing 3 kids. Am a concerned parent.

I like to share my knowledge with the hope that it will be of help to someone somewhere and make a difference to a very worried parent.

I have written this article, based on my experience, my talk with experts in this line and research on this topic.

Also, I would like to emphasize that this is only for knowledge sharing and information purpose.

If you5

5 wish to know more on our disclaimer, you can find the link in the footer of this page.

Thabitha David

Thabitha David

Mother, Wife, Daughter, Sister, Aunt, Friend. She is a MBA Graduate specialized in Human Resources. She is a very proud mother of 3 Kids. (2 Teens & 1 Tween). She is a keen Observer of Life and is a blogger. She writes these articles based on her experience (Success and Failures). She does this with hope to help and ease the pain of at-least one parent as they face the challenges of parenting. Read more from the About Us Page

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