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Learn More About Child Abuse

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  • 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused by the time they reach 18 years of age.1
  • Over 90% of children who are victims of sexual abuse know their abuser. 2, 3
  • Approximately 30% of children who are sexually abused are abused by family members. 2, 3
  • Five children die every day in the United States from child abuse and neglect.4
  • For more information about child abuse, visit www.cdc.gov

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  • Changes in behavior – A victim of abuse could appear scared, anxious, depressed, withdrawn, or aggressive.
  • Regression to earlier behaviors – A child may display behaviors shown at earlier ages, such as thumb-sucking, bed-wetting, fear of the dark or strangers.
  • Fear of going home or to previously trusted places – Children may express apprehension or anxiety about leaving school or about going places with the person who is abusing them.
  • Changes in eating or sleeping – The stress, fear, and anxiety caused by abuse can lead to changes in a child’s eating behaviors, which may result in weight changes, or the child may have frequent nightmares/difficulty falling asleep, and as a result may appear tired or fatigued.
  • Changes in school performance and attendance – Abused children may have difficulty concentrating in school or have excessive absences, sometimes due to adults trying to hide the child’s injuries from authorities.
  • Lack of personal care or hygiene – Abused and neglected children present as consistently dirty and have severe body odor, or they may lack sufficient clothing for the weather.
  • Inappropriate sexual language or behaviors – Children who have been sexually abused may exhibit overly sexualized behavior or use sexual language that is not age appropriate.
  • Unexplained Injuries – Visible signs of physical abuse may be present, such as bruises, burns, or broken bones; however, it is extremely uncommon to have physical findings in sexual abuse incidents.

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Those who victimize children are responsible for their actions but, as caring adults, there are steps we can each take to minimize risks and keep children safer.

  • Learn about child sexual abuse, including how to recognize possible signs of abuse and respond to concerns.
  • Be prepared to report concerns or suspicions to the Department of Social Services or Law Enforcement. Contact Pat’s Place if you have questions or need support to do this.
  • Seek information about activities in which children will be involved, including policies and procedures for supervision and safety. Steps should be taken to minimize isolated, one-on-one interactions.
  • Talk with adults who will be responsible for caring for or supervising children. Ask about screening, training, and monitoring of employees and volunteers.
  • Learn about and watch for “grooming” behavior in adults who interact with children.
  • Talk with children and teens about their bodies, boundaries, and sex. Encourage questions and conversation.
  • Respect privacy and personal space – encourage independence in toileting, dressing, and hygiene.
  • Monitor children and teen’s television, video, and internet usage/viewing. Exposure to violence or pornography can impact healthy development.

References:

  1. Townsend, C., Rheingold, A. A., (2013).  Estimating a child sexual abuse prevalence rate for practitioners:  A review of child sexual abuse prevalence studies.  Charleston, S.C., Darkness to Light.
  2. Finkelhor, D. (2012). Characteristics of crimes against juveniles. Durham, NH: Crimes against Children Research Center.
  3. Whealin, J. (2007-05-22). Child Sexual Abuse. National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, US Department of Veterans Affairs.
  4. Centers for Disease Control. (2022). Fast Facts: Preventing Child Abuse & Neglect. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/childabuseandneglect/fastfact.html

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