What does it take to stop child abuse?
By Laura Fogerty
Stopping Abuse – What Does It Take? Child abuse stops when WE stop it through prevention, intervention, and recovery. Suspect abuse? Report it. Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) is dedicated to the prevention of child abuse. Serving the United States, its territories, and Canada, the Hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with professional crisis counselors who, through interpreters, can provide assistance in 170 languages. The Hotline offers crisis intervention, information, literature, and referrals to thousands of emergency, social service, and support resources. All calls are anonymous and confidential. . To find a child advocacy center near you, contact the National Children’s Alliance 1-800-239-9950.
There are many reasons, or justifications we all make in order to turn the other way and avoid the confrontation that comes with acknowledging child abuse. I’ve made some of the same excuses that some of you probably have. I don’t want to make it worse. What if I’m wrong? I don’t want to hurt her feelings or make him think I am judging. If we take the time to consider that our own comfort and convenience pale in comparison to protecting children, maybe we can make that first step to being an abuse stopper instead of a bystander. Isn’t a child’s safety more important than our convenience? Isn’t a child’s health and well-being more important than someone else’s hurt feelings or embarrassment? Isn’t a child’s welfare more important than your level of discomfort? I bet you answered yes! Before the end of this day- approximately 5 children will die at the hands of their abusers. The United States has the worst record among the industrialized nations, in part because we turn our head and look the other way when we see abuse.
Abuse hurts children in many ways. Young children are at special risk, in fact most children who are abused become victims of abuse and neglect at 18 months or younger. Children who are abused or neglected may not grow properly, they may have learning problems. They may feel bad about themselves and not trust other people. Likely they feel guilty, afraid, ashamed, and powerless. Children often believe that abuse or neglect is their fault. They may think that they did something wrong and deserve what happened. If a child discloses abuse to you, listen and believe to give him/her the best possible chance for a positive outcome, post abuse. The early support you give sets the stage for recovery and healing. Don’t overreact. Listen calmly. Don’t fear the silence or try to fill it. Ask open ended questions like, “Then what happened?” Make sure to say that you believe the child and also that what happened is not his or her fault. Be careful not to show anger or disgust about the offender. This may confuse or upset the child. The offender may very well be someone the child loves and trusts and by being angry or threatening about the perpetrator, you may worsen the guilt the child is most likely already feeling
Stopping abuse may be complicated in some respects, but it also can be as simple as offering a break to a mother or caregiver who seems overwhelmed. Take a break for yourself if you feel you may be overly stressed by the demands of caregiving. Raise your skills and take a parenting class. If you were abused as a child, seek help to ensure you will not become an abuser.
Reporting abuse of any sort is only a phone call away. If a child in need is counting on you, don’t let him or her down. Report the incident to the police or child protective services in your area, or call 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).
Editor, Ask Lala
Laura Fogarty writes “Ask Lala” for the Stop Abuse Campaign. She is a mother, an advocate and the author of two children’s abuse prevention books: I’M THE BOSS OF ME! and WE ARE JUST ALIKE!
Laura has an ACE score of 6.