Physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and neglect are the four most common types of child abuse, often referred to as child maltreatment. A reported one in seven children have experienced some form of abuse or neglect in the past year, and this figure is likely an understatement, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). During April, which is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, we encourage the community to help raise awareness about this issue and work together to end child abuse.
The first step to ending child abuse and neglect is to recognize when it is happening. Those involved in a child's life on a daily basis - including teachers, doctors or coaches - may be the first to notice the signs. Anyone in the community, however, can see a child in need and provide help. Be vigilant and look for the signs of abuse and neglect, as well as other uncommon behaviors. Always report any issues that you may see.
If a child is constantly worried or on alert, shies away from touch, flinches at certain movements or seems afraid to go home, they could be suffering from physical abuse. If a child is suffering from sexual abuse, they may have trouble walking or sitting, make strong efforts to avoid a specific person, feel uncomfortable changing clothes, or not want to participate in physical activity. A child who is excessively withdrawn, fearful or anxious about doing something wrong, shows extremes in their behavior, and doesn't seem attached to their parent or caregiver may be a victim of emotional abuse.
There are a number of signs that a child might be suffering from neglect. A child who is frequently absent from school, dressed inappropriately for the weather on a regular basis, is consistently dirty or has severe body odor, may be suffering from neglect.
The Safe Child Coalition, a partnership with Saint Joseph London and other local organizations, is on a mission to end child abuse and neglect right here in in Laurel County. The coalition is working with local agencies, community-based organizations and families to promote healthy and nurturing relationships in families.
The group meets monthly to discuss and plan ways to reduce child abuse, and how to best serve families and children who have experienced neglect or abuse by ensuring that they receive community and government support. The coalition provides education, training and public awareness to combat the dangers of and damage caused by child abuse.
Every person in a child's life can help spot the signs of child abuse. With that in mind, the Safe Child Coalition also works with local schools to lead trainings for school officials and teachers on how to provide a safer environment for children, how to report incidents of abuse, and who to contact following a report of abuse or neglect.
If you have reason to believe a child is a victim of abuse or neglect, immediately call the Kentucky Child Abuse Reporting Hotline at 1.800.752.6200. This number is answered 24-hours a day, seven days a week.