Talking about child abuse isn’t easy, but it’s necessary, and April, which is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, is the perfect time to start.
“Child abuse is sometimes a taboo subject,” said DeLaine Bottoms, associate director of the Exchange Club – Carl Perkins Center. “If we’re ever going to break the cycle of abuse, we have to have an open dialogue about it.”
According to 2011 statistics, one in every seven children in the U.S. is abused. Every 10 seconds a case of child abuse is reported. Every four hours a child dies from abuse.
“It’s time to break the cycle,” Bottoms said. “It’s time to talk about child abuse.”
According to Tennessee law, all persons, including doctors, mental health professionals, child care providers, teachers, dentists, family members and friends, must report suspected cases of child abuse or neglect. Failure to report child abuse or neglect is a violation of the law.
If someone suspects abuse they must report it by calling their local law enforcement agency, local Department of Children’s Services or the State Central Intake number at 1-877-237-0004. It is not necessary to prove or substantiate the abuse. If someone suspects child abuse they must report it to the proper authorities.
Possible indicators of abuse and neglect include:
• The child has repeated injuries that are not properly treated or adequately explained.
• The child begins acting in unusual ways ranging from disruptive and aggressive to passive and withdrawn.
• The child acts in the role of parent toward their brothers and sisters or even toward their own parents.
• The child may have disturbed sleep, including nightmares, bed wetting, fear of sleeping alone, needing a nightlight, etc.
• The child loses his or her appetite, overeats or may report being hungry.
• There is a sudden drop in school grades or participation in activities.
• The child may act out sexual behavior that is not normal for his/her age group.
• The child may report abusive or neglectful acts.
The above signs indicate that something is wrong but do not necessarily point to abuse. However, if these signs are noticed early and the proper authorities intervene, abuse can be prevented.
For more information on how to take time to talk about child abuse, call your local Carl Perkins Center at 587-0768.
Editor’s note: Lori Hendon is the director of the Exchange Club Carl Perkins Center serving Weakley and Obion counties.