Child abuse: How Could They Not Know?

Young boy sitting alone with sad feeling at school. Depressed african child abandoned in a corridor and leaning against brick wall. Bullying, discrimination and racism concept at school with copy space.

By Jessica Cisneros

Vice President of Behavioral Health Services at Family Houston

A report of child abuse is made every ten seconds.1 Every ten seconds is hard to fathom. How could anyone in a family not realize? Most of us want to believe that if our child or a child we know is being abused we would be aware, right? It is not that simple.

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are five types of child abuse: physical, sexual, emotional, medical, and neglect. Any form of abuse can be difficult to detect; however, there are signs you can be aware of with a child. For example, if a child exhibits sudden changes in behavior or school performance; has a lack of adult supervision; is overly compliant, passive, or withdrawn; is reluctant to be around a particular person; has unexplained burns, bites, bruises, broken bones, or black eyes – fresh or faded; shrinks at the approach of adults; is frequently absent from school; begs or steals food or money; is consistently dirty and has severe body odor; has difficulty walking or sitting; suddenly refuses to change for gym or to participate in physical activities; or reports nightmares or bed-wetting, that child could be experiencing a form of abuse.

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. One in 7 children have been abused in the last year, and that number significantly increases in children who are living in poverty. The consequences of child abuse are high. Not only are there the physical injuries that occur immediately, but emotional and psychological problems occur as well, and sometimes the latter can have an even greater long-term impact on the child. Children who are exposed to violence have a higher risk for substance abuse, sexually transmitted infections, delayed brain development, lower educational attainment, and limited employment opportunities later in life. Victims of abuse can also suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and learning, attention, and memory difficulties.2

With the statistics of child abuse high, it can feel overwhelming trying to protect your child from becoming a victim. However, there are ways to reduce the probability of that happening. Taking an active role in your child’s life is the best way to be alert and to protect him or her. For example, get acquainted with the activities and people your child is involved with (online and in person), ensure they know that they can talk to you about anything that bothers or confuses them, and educate them about the difference between good secrets (such as birthday surprises) and bad secrets (those that make the child feel unsafe or uncomfortable).3

If you yourself have been a victim of child abuse, it can be difficult to break the cycle. We generally raise our children the way we were taught. An individual that was never taught how to manage their emotions properly may not know how to handle their anger around a child. Through ourParent Resources program, we help clients develop the skills to be a better parent. Clients learn effective ways to discipline, what it takes to build healthy self-esteem in a child, the important stages of child development, and how to manage anger. In addition, our Parenting and Divorcecourse teaches parents how to get through this difficult family transition, and how to avoid placing their children in the middle of the conflicts. It qualifies as court-mandated divorcing parent education, and is endorsed by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. Our licensed counselors are also equipped to help with one-on-one parenting. If you, or someone you know, might benefit from one of our parenting courses or seeing a counselor call us at 713-861-4849 or email us at family@familyhouston.org.

If you see something suspicious or suspect abuse report it to The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) by calling 1-800-252-5400 or going online to https://www.txabusehotline.org.