Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Child Abuse and the Death of Caylee Anthony

I suspect most of the nation has been mourning the passing of sweet little Caylee Anthony. I know I have. It's horrifying, isn't it? The possibility that a mother could murder her own child (I know, she's been aquitted, but still...). It goes against every instinct within us. And yet it happens every day, all around us. Even within our very own neighborhoods.

Consider this. In 2009, approximately 3.3 million child abuse reports were made involving over 6 million children in the U.S. That's a lot of children, and that only reflects a very small portion of those cases that actually were reported to authorities.

There are four types of child abuse: physical, sexual, emotional, and neglect. Believe it or not, but neglect often times has the most devastating psychological effects on a child. As sick as it sounds, when you are beaten or sexually abused, at least you are getting attention. As a social worker, most people, I've found, believe child abuse happens just to poor people, or children of the drug addicted. What they don't realize is that all forms of child abuse cross over every socioeconomic level, ethnic and cultural line, religions, and all levels of education.

Here are some other disturbing facts:

--a report of child abuse is made every ten seconds

--almost five children a day die from child abuse

--60-85% or child fatalities due to mistreatment are not recorded on such on death certificates

--90& of child sexual abuse victims know their perpetrator in some way

--over 60% of people in drug rehab centers were abused or neglected as children

--abused children are 25% more likely to experience teen pregnancy

--children of sexual abuse are 2.5 times likely to abuse alchohol and 3.8 times more likely to develop drug addiction
--14% of men and 36% of women in prison report being abused as children

For writers (and readers), there are some great YA books out there that tackle different forms of child abuse very beautifully and eloquently. Recently I've read Beth Faulbam's beautiful books which follow a girl's journey to recovery from sexual abuse: Hope in Patience and Courage in Patience. Another amazing book also dealing with sexual abuse is Scars by Cheryl Rainfield. A book I'm reading right now is called You Don't Know Me by David Klass, about a 14 year old boy being abused by his stepfather.

The list goes on, but the reality is the same: children being abused are our children's classmates, our neighbor's kids, our relatives. We don't want to think that it's in our back yard, but it is. What I've learned most from being a social worker, is that most of the time, parents who abuse their children tend to look just like me and you. What can we do? Educate ourselves, and try and keep our eyes and ears open. And of course, please, even if you are not a mandated reporter, report any suspected child abuse to your local Child Protective Services Hotline.

Here are some signs that a child is being abused:

Warning signs of emotional abuse in children
Excessively withdrawn, fearful, or anxious about doing something wrong.
Shows extremes in behavior (extremely compliant or extremely demanding; extremely passive or extremely aggressive).
Doesn’t seem to be attached to the parent or caregiver.
Acts either inappropriately adult (taking care of other children) or inappropriately infantile (rocking, thumb-sucking, tantruming).
Warning signs of physical abuse in children
Frequent injuries or unexplained bruises, welts, or cuts.
Is always watchful and “on alert,” as if waiting for something bad to happen.
Injuries appear to have a pattern such as marks from a hand or belt.
Shies away from touch, flinches at sudden movements, or seems afraid to go home.
Wears inappropriate clothing to cover up injuries, such as long-sleeved shirts on hot days.
Warning signs of neglect in children
Clothes are ill-fitting, filthy, or inappropriate for the weather.
Hygiene is consistently bad (unbathed, matted and unwashed hair, noticeable body odor).
Untreated illnesses and physical injuries.
Is frequently unsupervised or left alone or allowed to play in unsafe situations and environments.
Is frequently late or missing from school.
Warning signs of sexual abuse in children
Trouble walking or sitting.
Displays knowledge or interest in sexual acts inappropriate to his or her age, or even seductive behavior.
Makes strong efforts to avoid a specific person, without an obvious reason.
Doesn’t want to change clothes in front of others or participate in physical activities.
An STD or pregnancy, especially under the age of 14.
Runs away from home.


KO: The Insect Collector said...

gruesome statistics, but it is good to be reminded. the list of warning signs is especially helpful.
We just had a sad case with a child in my son's kindergarten class. He and his four siblings were taken away from their parents b/c they were suffering from neglect (not being fed, among other things). It was heartbreaking, and I hope the kids will be okay now that they're in foster care.

kara said...

Oh, and in your son's class! Wow, that is very close to home. And five of them...hope they get to stay together. :(
Thanks for sharing!

Lora R. Rivera said...

As always, this post is thoughtful and informative. Thanks for laying it out in plain-speak, Kara. And I'm glad YA books are able to tackle these tough issues for teens.