My heart breaks every time I come across yet another story about the tragic abuse of a child. While I know most parents are good to their kids, it never fails to disturb me when I read about the terrible things some adults do that can cause irreparable harm to their children.
As difficult as this topic is to talk about, it’s important that we do. Having greater awareness about it can make a positive difference for a child who might be a potential target for abuse.
Each year in the U.S., more than 3 million children are abused by those who are supposed to be caring for them, including parents, caregivers, coaches, ministers, teachers, and others in trusted roles. Abusive acts against children can have far-reaching consequences and adversely affect their emotional, psychological, and physical development.
4 Primary Categories of Child Abuse:
- Neglect occurs in situations where a child’s basic needs are not met, such as lack of shelter, clothing, food, school, and physical and emotional connection.
- Physical abuse involves any kind of physical force against a child, such as hitting, burning, or kicking.
- Emotional abuse can be anything that hurts a child’s sense of value, like shaming, being verbally threatening, or name-calling.
- Sexual abuse is, as it sounds, forcing sex acts upon a child or otherwise exposing them to inappropriate sexual behaviors. Every 9 minutes, a child is victimized in this way.
The pre-pandemic statistics showed that some form of abuse is perpetrated against 1 of every 7 children. While it can happen at all income levels, some populations—particularly impoverished communities—are more vulnerable.
What’s additionally concerning now is that since the spring of 2020, many people who are mandated reporters, such as teachers, day care workers, and medical staff have had less in-person interactions with children, so it’s likely that there are cases of child abuse flying under the radar of Child Protective Services (CPS) or the Department of Human Services (DHS).
This issue, on top of the stress, financial strain, social isolation, and mental health crisis since the start of the pandemic, have me deeply worried about the children who are at risk.
I Was One of the Fortunate Children
I have never felt the impulse to do anything that would harm my child. For me, it’s quite the opposite—I am like a mama bear and would destroy anyone who tried to hurt her. I give thanks to my own mother who felt and acted in the same way toward me. At age 11, I was sexually molested by my stepfather and when I told my mother about it, she believed me and responded immediately to kick him out of our lives.
Had she not listened to me or if she had dismissed my fear in some way, it’s very possible that I, like others who are not heard, could have had to live with ongoing fear along with shame and guilt that weren’t mine to own. I can’t emphasize this enough: If one of your children tells you about an assault or attempted assault against them, believe what they say and take the necessary steps to report it and keep them safe.
I was also fortunate to escape from an attempted rape at age 16 while on the way to school by fighting off the assailant. Since a sexual assault occurs every 73 seconds in this country, I know that many of you have had similar—or perhaps even worse—experiences.If one of your children tells you about an assault or attempted assault against them, believe what they say and take the necessary steps to report it and keep them safe. Click To Tweet
Protecting Children is a Priority
All forms of child abuse are harmful, and sadly, most don’t happen in a vacuum. Many of the people who hurt children were victims of abuse themselves. I often wonder if their horrific behavior comes from an unconscious thirst for revenge that stems from the long-term effects of a person’s own unhealed trauma and pain. But even if that is the case, it’s not an excuse for abusing someone, especially a defenseless child.
What about you?
- Have you ever lashed out at your own child and said hurtful things when you were angry, even though your child had nothing to do with what provoked you?
- Are you and your spouse or partner having regular screaming matches that your children are witnessing?
Even common and less overt, but still inappropriate, behaviors like these can be traumatizing to children, and can affect their sense of safety and trust, as well as teach them to repeat the cycle of abuse.
It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way
If you are concerned about how your past can be playing itself out in unhealthy ways in your life now, it is your responsibility to get help. I urge you to take the steps to address your own anger problems, depression, anxiety, addiction, and/or trauma to get yourself under control. You deserve to have a better life, and so do your children.
And finally, if you suspect a child is being victimized in any way, please report it to a professional agency, such as your local CPS or DHS office. They can intervene and help that child have a better and more healthy future.
To learn more about how I overcame my past trauma, order my recent memoir, The Relentless Courage of a Scared Child: How Persistence, Grit, and Faith Created a Reluctant Healer.
If you’re struggling and need professional help, Amen Clinics is here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.