700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

Child Abuse Prevention: Awareness, Disclosure, Suspicion

Apr 01, 2024
young child sitting at their desk at school looking sad

An estimated 1 in 7 children in the United States experience abuse or neglect each year. Child abuse and neglect can occur in any family, regardless of socioeconomic status. Child abuse and neglect is preventable, and parents and caregivers must be equipped with knowledge and resources to identify signs of abuse, encourage disclosure, and address suspicions promptly.

Awareness: Recognizing the Signs

Abuse can be physical, emotional, or sexual, and can include physical or emotional neglect. It can sometimes be hard to see, but there are things to look for. Recognizing these signs is important for early intervention and preventing further harm. Physical abuse indicators such as unexplained bruises, burns, or frequent injuries should not be ignored. There can also be behavioral signs like sudden changes in mood, withdrawal, anxiety, depression, or reluctance to go home or be around a particular person. Parents and caregivers must remain aware, actively observing and listening to their children.

Disclosure: Encouraging Communication

Encouraging open communication is essential in creating an environment where children feel safe to disclose any experiences of abuse. Building trust and fostering a supportive relationship lays the foundation for such disclosures. It's crucial to establish a non-judgmental atmosphere where children feel heard and believed. Teach them about body safety, boundaries, and appropriate touches, empowering them to speak up if they feel uncomfortable.

It’s also helpful to maintain regular conversations about their daily activities, experiences, and any concerns they might have. Validate their feelings by saying things like, “I care about you,” or “I’m proud of you for telling me.” It’s important to ask open-ended questions, and if you need more information from a child, repeat what they’ve told you and say, “Tell me more, if you’d like.”

Suspicion: Responding Proactively

If you think a child has experienced abuse, it's important to act quickly. Trust your instincts and take any concerns seriously. Document things like odd behaviors, conversations, and incidents, because these details may be important later. If you suspect abuse, reach out to authorities or organizations specializing in child protection. Report your concerns to child protective services, law enforcement, or trusted professionals who can investigate the matter thoroughly. Even if you’re not completely sure abuse has occurred, it’s better to be safe and get help.

Preventing child abuse is everyone’s responsibility. Parents, caregivers, communities, and authorities must work together to keep kids safe. This can be accomplished by learning about what to look out for, talking openly with kids, and acting quickly if you think something is wrong.

If you think a child is being abused or neglected, you should report it as soon as you become aware. Do not wait, as time can make a difference. If an incident has happened within the last 96 hours, an immediate medical appointment may be necessary.

If you or someone you know needs help, call your local law enforcement agency or Child Protective Services Agency. In Franklin County, call the Franklin County Children Services 24-hour child abuse hotline at 614-229-7000 or visit their website. Outside of Franklin County, call the 24-hour National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) or visit their website.

The Center for Family Safety and Healing is a leader in the prevention of child abuse and offers valuable resources and trainings to support the well-being of families and create safe and thriving communities.

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Alena Schuckmann
Alena Schuckmann
The Center for Family Safety and Healing

Alena Schuckmann is the Digital Communications Specialist for The Center for Family Safety and Healing. Alena graduated with a degree in communications and a minor in art from Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky. Alena is a skilled digital content creator who has had various articles and photographs published locally and nationwide.

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.