I’m an 8th grader at Scenic Middle School. I’ve had some friends who have not had the best family situations. Sometimes they tell me what’s going on at their homes, sometimes they don’t, but I have my own ideas. I have always felt helpless and don’t know what to do or what to say. I think they just want someone to listen. I’m not sure what child abuse really means and would not want to say something that would get them in more trouble. Would you please tell me exactly what child abuse is so I can be sure and do whatever needs to be done to help my friends? I have read that April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and I want to know what I can do to support this cause and to know what to do if those situations happen again.
It sounds like you are a very good friend. It can be very difficult for kids to tell about abuse going on in their home. They must trust you. There are several types of child abuse: neglect, emotional, physical and sexual.
Neglect is when persons responsible for a child fail to provide care, protection, and nurturing necessary for the child’s emotional and/or physical well-being. Some examples are failure to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, or medical care.
Emotional abuse is when their emotional integrity (personal honesty and independence) is compromised through name calling, degrading remarks, judgmental looks/actions and conditional love.
Physical abuse occurs if the child has sustained any physical injury, not by accidental means, and does not fit the explanation given.
Sexual abuse is the exploitation of a child for the sexual gratification of an adult or significantly older person. This may include touching of private parts, taking sexually explicit pictures of children, showing children sexual pictures or having sex in front of a child. Incest is when sexual abuse happens between family members, including mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, adoptive and step relations, legitimate and illegitimate children, or relatives of whole or half blood.
It is important that the community knows about abuse and how to keep children safe. We have a Darkness to Light Training offered at the Children’s Advocacy Center which “educates adults to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. It seeks to protect children from sexual abuse by placing responsibility squarely on adult shoulders.” I know that you want to be the one to help your friends and you can, by having the adults in your life take this training. You can also let your friends know that there are places and people that are here to help them: The Children’s Advocacy Center, Sexual Assault Victim Services, Department of Human Services, and Jackson County Mental Health to just name a few.
Thank you Sam, for giving me the opportunity to tell you about how to recognize and prevent child abuse. I hope your friends are able to get the help they need and recognize what a good friend they have in you. If you have any more questions, you can always call my mom, Toni, at CAC. Her phone number is: (541) 734-5437 X107.