November 19th is World Child Abuse Prevention Day. Developed and launched in 2000, this day is dedicated to raise awareness on child abuse and neglect. The Women’s World Summit (WWSA) and the American Psychological Association (APA) led the development in collaboration with other agencies and governments. The following data was released by the APA/WWSA:
· In 2004, an estimated 3 million children were alleged to have been victims of physical, sexual, verbal and emotional abuse, neglect, abandonment, and death. After investigations, almost 900,000 of these victims were found to have been victims of child maltreatment.
· In the USA, children are more likely to die from violence and neglect than from accidents. Child violence permanently disables 18,000 children and youth every year and seriously injures 565,000.
· Violence and neglect against children kill more than 3 children every day in America. Most of the children who die are younger than six years of age. Of these fatalities, 85% were under the age of six; 44% of the children were under the age of one.
· Almost 80% of the perpetrators are parents.”
According to the Center for Disease Control, 1 in 7 children experienced abuse or neglect in 2020 and 1,878 died as a result of abuse or neglect in 2019 in the United States.
The Mayo clinic defines child abuse as any intentional harm to a child, but many times families are raised in generational abuse that is normalized. Children, by nature, imitate behaviors from their parents and are then raised to repeat those patterns with their own off spring. Examples may be corporal punishments, yelling, belittling, guilting, and even sexual type behaviors. The following are clarifications to differing types of abuse per the Ohio Revised Code (ORC):
Physical Abuse- is an act where one person uses their body in order to inflict intentional harm or injury upon another person
Emotional Abuse- when a person causes a child to lose self-esteem due to maltreatment such as belittling, yelling, rejecting or isolating a child.
Sexual Abuse- any kind of sexual behaviors with a minor including inappropriate touching/fondling, oral-genital contact, intercourse or any type of sexual exploitation including child pornography.
Medical Abuse- a parent’s failure to provide adequate medical or dental care for their child, especially when it is needed to treat a serious physical injury or illness. In some cases, this can also include a failure to provide for psychiatric care if the child needs it. Also, some jurisdictions may hold other parties liable for medical neglect, such as custodians or guardians who have a legal duty to care for the child.
Neglect- when a caregiver does not provide adequate shelter, food, safety, supervision, affection or medical care to a child.
In 1997 a two-year study was conducted leading to the development of what we now refer to as ‘ACE’s’ (adverse childhood experiences) linking childhood experiences to future health and behavioral issues. The ACE study continues to gain current information as years progress, linking childhood experiences such as parental death, substance abuse, or witnessing violence as a link to many conditions later in life. An adverse childhood experience (ACE) can be as simple as a child experiencing their parents go through a divorce. The foundational conclusion is that our development, as children, is affected by the situations we encounter or experience. With that study in mind, child abuse plays an enormous role in the development of a child.
The Center for Disease Control has conducted a survey that determined 61% of adults (in 25 states) experienced at least 1 ACE in their childhood. 1 in 6 of those surveyed reported 4 or more ACEs. The APA has developed ‘ACT- Adults and Children Together- Against Violence’ initiative that includes parenting classes and education for families and communities. There are currently government funds aimed at the prevention of ACEs to reduce the strain on communities and future healthcare costs. It is estimated by the CDC that 1.9 million cases of heart disease and 21 million cases of depression could have been potentially avoided by preventing ACEs.
Working toward preventing ACEs is great for future generations, but what about preventing abuse NOW? There are many agencies working toward prevention of child abuse with many safe guards in place. Integrated Services assists families in parenting skills and even parenting classes. Many other local agencies assist in helping families navigate in difficult times. Child Protective Services (CPS) are constantly doing what they can to protect and keep families together and children safe. Licensed healthcare workers are mandated reporters, meaning if they even suspect any type of child abuse, they are required by law to report it. Although CPS can sometimes be viewed negatively, they are dedicated to a child’s safety and have the child’s best interest in mind.
In conclusion, I hope that you now realize the importance of a community effort to prevent child abuse. What a child experiences early in life can predict their future health, behavior and future contributions to society.
Angella Rosler, RN, is a Public Health Nurse at the Meigs County Health Department.