In an ideal world, every child would be safe and happy, free from the grasp of fear, hurt, neglect, and abuse. Unfortunately, the reality is completely different. Child abuse is real and happens more frequently than we think. Child abuse prevention is a critical need of the hour!
Statistics reveal that more than 600,000 children are abused in the U.S. each year. Further, in 2019, state agencies announced that an estimated 1,840 children died as a result of abuse and neglect. That’s an average of five children a day!
The horror doesn’t end there. Over 70% of the children who died from abuse or neglect were three years of age or younger. What’s worse is that around 80% of child maltreatment fatalities involve at least one parent as the perpetrator.
As alarming as these numbers are, there are also ways to prevent such incidents, and it all begins in our homes. Child abuse prevention education is key. Creating awareness among parents and caregivers is the first step towards making the world a safer and happier place for our children.
It Is Difficult for Children to Talk about Abuse
Many cases of child abuse go unreported because children don’t bring them to the notice of their parents. In cases where the perpetrator is a parent , the child might get discouraged or feel they have no one to turn to.
Child abuse prevention starts with creating a genuine bond of trust. Parents and caregivers must do everything in their power to make sure that the children under their care get opportunities to talk about abuse or any behavior that is making them uncomfortable.
Child abuse education programs teach parents and caregivers what signs of abuse to look for, how to encourage children to report, and how to proceed once a disclosure of abuse has been made. These programs also aim to help adults better protect their children both online and offline.
Some reasons children don’t talk about what’s happening to them include:
- They feel embarrassed and/or humiliated.
- They think no one will believe them.
- They’re afraid of the parent’s reaction.
- They don’t know how to express what’s happening.
- They’re confused by the person who abused them (This happens when the person is familiar).
- They don’t know what is happening is wrong.
- The abuser is playing on the child’s fear, embarrassment, and guilt to keep them from speaking up.
Child abuse prevention education can help parents and caregivers understand how to offer support to children and help them feel safe again.
Importance of Child Abuse Prevention Education
Utah child abuse awareness created through proper parental/caregiver education can be effective and empowering – it can help them help children in need. Child abuse education programs are crucial as they enable parents and carers to:
1. Identify the Signs of Abuse
Parents may not be able to tell that their child has been abused. As mentioned, the child may not open up to them for several reasons. This makes it all the more important for parents to know how to actively look for and identify signs and symptoms of abuse. These may be both physical and/or behavioral.
Even if signs of abuse are discovered or the child speaks about their ordeal, it can be hard for parents to come to terms with this new information. They may also fear the consequences of people finding out about it. However, child abuse prevention education can prepare parents to correctly deal with the situation and get their child the help they need.
A child who has experienced any kind of abuse needs tremendous support and professional treatment at the earliest possible. It’s always helpful for the child to have parents/caregivers who are equipped to provide the kind of empathy and support they need. Child abuse education programs can equip parents and caregivers with the tools they need to provide empathy and support in these situations.It is important to remember that the longer the child is abused or left to deal with the abuser on their own, the harder it will be for them to heal.
2. Face the Harsh Realities
Here’s a shocking reality: About 93% of children who are victims of sexual abuse know their abuser. This means children are highly likely to be victimized by someone they trust.
The thing is, child abusers can come from all backgrounds – rich, poor, male, female, married, or single. They could be a part of the family or friends’ social circle. They may abuse children of their own, those within the extended family, or children of friends, neighbors, or colleagues.
People who sexually abuse children are good at building trust – they appear friendly, amiable, and harmless, making their grooming behaviors hard to notice. The abuse might continue for years before the child realizes what’s going on.
To a great extent, prevention depends on child abuse prevention education that teaches adults to become comfortable talking about abuse and taking the steps to recognize, resist, and report it.
3. Respond in a Supportive Manner
If you find a child has been abused, what should you do? Child abuse prevention education will inform you that abused children need immediate attention from a pediatrician or a local child abuse prevention agency.
Being in denial or delaying reporting your suspicions of abuse prevents the child from receiving the urgent help they need. Denial or apathy enables the abuse to continue unchecked, while severely hampering the child’s well-being. Remember, if your child has experienced abuse, you may be the only person who can help them.
Child Abuse Prevention Resources
Here are a few helpful resources for child abuse prevention and education for parents and caregivers:
1. Committee for Children
Child Abuse Prevention Initiative: A part of their Hot Chocolate Talk® campaign, their How-To Guide makes it easy to talk about important safety concerns so parents can empower their children to report and refuse sexual abuse.
2. Child Welfare Information Gateway
Child Abuse Prevention Initiative: This organization promotes the safety, permanency, and well-being of children, youth, and families. They do this by connecting child welfare, adoption, and related professionals as well as the public to information, resources, and tools covering topics on child welfare, child abuse and neglect, out-of-home care, adoption, and more.
3. Childhelp Speak Up Be Safe Program
Child Abuse Prevention Initiative: This is an evidence-based curriculum program with developmentally appropriate lessons for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade to help students prevent, interrupt, and speak up about various types of child abuse—physical, emotional, sexual, neglect, bullying, and cyber abuse.
4. Darkness to Light Stewards of Children Training
Child Abuse Prevention Initiative: They teach about preventing, recognizing, and reacting responsibly to child sexual abuse. This organization wants children to become confident and competent, know how to prevent sexual abuse and react skillfully if it occurs.
5. Utah Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Center
Child Abuse Prevention Initiative: Prevent Child Abuse Utah is dedicated to the cause of child abuse awareness and prevention. Their initiatives include education programs on abuse recognition and reporting for both children and adults, evidence-based home visiting support for parents, and more.
Child abuse prevention education equips parents and caregivers to prioritize the welfare of their children/wards by forming a solid bond with them. These programs enable the safe and secure upbringing of the next generation. The more a parent is involved in their child’s life, the more confidence the child will have to stand up for themselves and report any untoward incident.
If you suspect that a child around you is facing abuse or neglect, contact PCA Utah immediately. We’re a local child abuse prevention organization that works to stop child abuse in all forms. Call us at (801) 393-3366 or fill out our online contact form for more information.