Every April, Child Abuse Prevention Month is an opportunity to learn about the signs of child abuse and how to prevent it. This year, 2020, poses a special set of risks as COVID-19 quarantine keeps families isolated at home.
Domestic abuse experts warn that the covid-19 outbreak could lead to more abuse cases. Stress factors such as being confined, unemployment, economic instability, and consumption of alcohol may place more stress on families during this pandemic. Katie Ray-Jones, CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline told the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, “Our experience informs us that in homes where abuse is already occurring, and there is a negative financial impact or added stress in the home, we typically see a higher frequency of incidents of abuse and increased severity of abuse.” Yet another concern is the availability of usual resources for domestic violence. Many services are shut down and shelters aren’t taking new clients right now. Therefore, the outbreak will also make victims more isolated and unable to get help.
The latest statistics available (2017) indicate that there were 9,334 victims of abuse or neglect in Arkansas, a rate of 13.2 per 1,000 children. This abuse or neglect often takes place in the home at the hands of a person the child knows well. There are four major types of child maltreatment. Although any of the forms may be found separately, they often occur together.
• Neglect – failure to provide for a child’s basic needs
• Physical abuse – physical injury as a result of hitting, kicking, shaking, burning, or otherwise harming a child
• Sexual abuse – any situation where a child is used for sexual gratification. Trafficking is a form of sexual abuse and includes the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act.
• Emotional abuse – any pattern of behavior that impairs a child’s emotional development or sense of self-worth
The first step in helping or getting help for an abused or neglected child is to identify the symptoms of abuse. Below are some symptoms of the four major types of child maltreatment. The presence of a single sign does not prove that child abuse is occurring in a family; however, when these signs appear repeatedly or in combination, you should consider the possibility of maltreatment.
Neglect – signs of malnutrition, poor hygiene, unattended physical or medical problems
Physical abuse – unexplained bruises, burns, or welts, child appears frightened of a parent or caregiver
Sexual abuse – pain, bleeding, redness, or swelling in anal or genital area, age-inappropriate sexual play with toys, self, or others, age-inappropriate knowledge of sex
Emotional abuse – extremes in behavior, ranging from overly aggressive to overly passive, delayed physical, emotional, or intellectual development
Anyone can and should report suspected child abuse or neglect. If you think a child is being mistreated, take immediate action. Arkansans can report child abuse by calling the Arkansas State Police Child Abuse Hotline, (800) 482-5964, or, in the event of an emergency, dial 911 or a local law enforcement agency. To report child exploitation, call the National CyberTipline, (800) 843-5678, or visit CyberTipline.com.
When you call to make a report, you will be asked for specific information, such as the child’s name and location, the name and relationship (if known) of the person you believe is abusing the child, what you have seen or heard regarding the abuse or neglect, the names of any other people who might know about the abuse, your name and phone number (voluntary). You may choose to report anonymously. Reporting the situation may protect the child and get additional help for the family.
For more information contact Terrie James at the Montgomery County Extension Office, 870-777-5771 or email@example.com.
Child Welfare Agencies https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/prevention_ch4_2020.pdf
Arkansas Attorney General’s Office https://arkansasag.gov/search/?submit=submit&q=child+abuse
Child Welfare League of America – Arkansas Statistics https://www.cwla.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Arkansas-2019.pdf
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Amy Monk is a County Extension Agent with the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, located in Montgomery County. You may reach her at 870-867-2311 or 117 Ray Drive, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/montgomerycountyextension