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TYPES OF CHILD ABUSE

PHYSICAL ABUSE

Intentional physical injury that harms or threatens a child's health or welfare.  This injury is one that does not happen by accident.  It can include hair pulling, bruises, confinement or restraint, severe beatings or burns, human bites, strangulation, broken bones, scars, and serious internal injuries.  It includes excessive discipline or punishment not suited to a child's age or condition. Spanking at an appropriate level is not considered abuse under Alaskan laws. Physical abuse does not always leave visible marks. If there are unexplained injuries, or inconsistent or implausible explanations for injuries, it is important to report suspected abuse. Fifty percent of fatal child abuse cases have physical signs that show up in the months proceeding the death—it is important that adults notice these signs and take action.

NEGLECT

Failure to care for a child, including neglect of the necessary physical (food, shelter, clothing and medical attention), emotional, mental, and social needs. 

Neglect is unrelated to poverty. It is a pattern of not providing a safe place to sleep, caring for hygiene needs, or not providing adequate nutrition. Neglect also includes not attending to a medical condition, leaving a child unattended for long periods of time, exposing children to alcohol and drugs, or leaving children under supervision of other children or unsafe adults

EMOTIONAL ABUSE

Emotional abuse is an injury to the emotional well-being, intellectual or psychological capacity of a child, as evidenced by an observable and substantial impairment in the child's ability to function in a developmentally appropriate manner. It is a pattern of extensive ridiculing, unreasonable and constant criticism, withholding emotion, intimidation, out not giving children positive emotional support or recognition. Witnessing domestic violence is a form of emotional abuse. There is a special exemption for domestic violence shelter regarding this -- if an advocate knows the child is not currently in danger (because, for instance, they are in the shelter), they do not have to report this kind of mental injury to Office of Children’s Services (OCS). 

SEXUAL ABUSE

Sexual abuse is forcing a child into sexual contact, including assault, molestation or incest. Sexual assault may not involve physical contact, but the child is forced to undress or look at the offender's genitals or inappropriate images. Molestation could be the handling of the child's genitals or having the child handle the offender's genitals. Incest is penetrative sexual assault of a child when the offender is a family member or guardian. Sexual exploitation is when a child is permitted to or encouraged to prostitute themselves. Sexual assault also occurs when a child is exposed to adult sexual behaviors. Sexual abuse is usually perpetrated by a family member or someone else the child knows.

SIGNS & SYMPTOMS 

Many signs and symptoms are similar across different types of abuse. Examples include:

 

  • Wariness of adults

  • Apprehensiveness when other children cry 

  • Behavioral extremes--aggressiveness or withdrawal from peers and adults

  • Fear of parents or fear of going home

  • Reenacting verbally abusive situations or repetitive play about violent events

  • Eating and/or sleeping disorders

  • Decline in academic performance

  • Hyperactivity and hyper vigilance

  • Memory loss

  • Severe separation anxiety (beyond expectation for age group)

  • Regression of skills

  • Constant worry about danger or about safety of loved ones

  • Emotional numbing and inability to feel remorse or 

  • Using bullying or aggression to control others

  • Abuse of animals

  • Recurring stomachaches, headaches, or other body aches and pains with no reasonable explanation (could be caused by undue stress)

  • Self-destructive behaviors (drugs/alcohol, suicidal gestures, vandalism)  

 

Physical abuse may or may not have physical signs. Any welts, bruises, or other injuries inconsistent with their age or developmental ability should be seen be a doctor right away. 

 

Children who are neglected may be consistently inadequately dressed for the weather, hungry,  or have unmet medical needs. They may also be excessively tired if they do not have a safe or stable place to sleep. 

 

Other indicators often associated with sexual abuse are: 

 

  • Excessive or unusual rubbing of genitals (their own or others)

  • Familiarity with sexual terms and activity beyond the child's age and level of development  

  • Excessive and/or inappropriate physical contact our sexual exploration with other children or adults, that continues despite requests to stop

  • Sexual promiscuity or unusually seductive behavior

  • Child sexually perpetrates on other children

  • Child’s sexual behaviors increase in frequency, intensity, violence, etc., over time

  • Sexually Transmitted Infections or Urinary Tract Infections

PREVALENCE OF CHILD ABUSE

In the US alone, at least 6 million children are either victims of or witnesses to physical abuse, domestic violence, or violence in the community each year. Neglect occurs in over 75% of child abuse cases, either alone or in conjunction with another form of abuse. A report of child abuse is made every ten seconds and give children die every day as the result of child abuse. Over fifty percent of homeless children are homeless because their mother is escaping an abusive environment. 

 

Many parents in unhealthy relationships believe the abuse or violence only impacts them, because their child never directly witnesses it. But 80-90% of children who live in homes with abusive parents can give detailed descriptions of violent incidents. Both perpetrators and victims of domestic violence are seventy percent more likely to abuse the children in the home, and in a home with domestic violence rates of neglect are 15 times higher than the national average. 

 

As the numbers show, child abuse is a serious problem in our country, one that is highly intertwined with domestic violence and other forms of abuse. For diagrams, go to the Child Help website. 

IMPACTS OF CHILD ABUSE

There is a path from being terrorized as a child to being a terrorizing and bullying adolescent and adult. Children who witness violence in their homes are also seventy percent more likely to become batterers themselves if they are male and fifty percent more likely to be victims of spousal or sexual abuse if they are female. About thirty percent of abused children will later abuse their own children. Children who experience child abuse and neglect are also much more likely to be arrested as a juvenile, arrested as an adult, or commit violent crimes.

 

In addition, witnessing domestic violence or experiencing abuse, along with living with someone who is a substance abuser, is mentally ill, or has been in prison, are deemed “adverse childhood experiences,” or ACEs. Ongoing studies on ACEs shows immediate and longterm health and social impacts of experiencing stressors such as witnessing or experiencing abuse. The more exposure there is in childhood to these traumatic and toxic stressors, the higher risk there is for that person to practice risky behaviors starting as a teenagers and have chronic diseases and substance abuse later in life.

 

Even without longterm emotional and physical impacts, children who grow up in abusive homes often end up living in a persistent state of fear, or a “fight or flight” state. Severe and chronic trauma causes toxic stress in kids. Toxic stress damages kid’s brains. When trauma or triggers launches kids into flight or fight mode, they cannot learn. It is physiologically impossible. The fear manifests at school, in social situations, and with family, and affects the whole community. 

 

In recent years, there has also been an increase in research into the effects of maltreatment on early brain development, showing that the brain’s development can by physiologically altered by prolonged, severe, or unpredictable stress during a child’s early years. This impact during critical development years—ages birth to 3 years old—can negatively affect a child’s physical, cognitive, emotional, and social growth. Brains affected by chronic stress have overdeveloped fear receptors, reduced complex thought regions, and may even be devoid of empathy and remorse neural pathways.