By Glenda Henman, Behavioral Health Counselor
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Most people avoid thinking or talking about child abuse and neglect because it is upsetting and difficult. However, in 2014, there were more than 700,000 children who were victims of child abuse and neglect. Knowing how big the problem is means we can take action to reduce this number and support these children as they recover.
We know now that child maltreatment (a phrase that includes abuse and neglect) can have lifelong and even generational impacts on physical and mental health known as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). It might be Child Abuse Prevention Month, but at NOAH, we work to prevent and heal child abuse every day.
Impact on Children
People usually think of visual, physical abuse or injuries, but child abuse takes many forms. Emotional neglect, medical and educational neglect, and sexual abuse are other forms of child maltreatment. Too often, these children are also facing other negative experiences like parental substance abuse, domestic violence, and poverty.
What to look for:
- Talking about the abuse
- Sexual knowledge beyond their age
- Withdrawing, running away, or avoiding a specific person
- Nightmares, bed wetting
- Changes in mood or appetite
- Being fearful of a parent or caregiver
- Sudden changes in behavior
Preventing Abuse and Neglect
Many of us here at NOAH, like doctors, nurses, dentists, psychologists, and others are Mandatory Reporters and must report abuse or suspected abuse of children or vulnerable adults. Reporting abuse is an essential step, but we can all be an advocate to prevent child abuse.
The best way to prevent child abuse is by promoting protective relationships and environments. Protective factors are tools and support that help a family stay strong so they can face challenges together like:
- Social connections
- Parenting knowledge
- Reliable and safe support in times of need
If you or someone you know needs additional support, NOAH is a great place to start! Our Community Resource team can connect families to resources, and our Behavioral Health team is here to support parents develop resiliency to face challenges.
Actions for everyone
Whether we have children in our lives or not, we can all take steps to help protect children and support families in our lives and our communities.
- Read books or articles, attend trainings or classes on parenting, or get involved with trusted resources like community leaders, schools, libraries, clergy, or these organizations:
- Ask for help when you need it.
- Offer to help people in your life who are parents or raising young children.
- Be a friend to a child you know; remember their name, show them you care.
- Teach children how to be safe from sexual abuse with age-appropriate, open conversations with your children about bodies, sex, and boundaries. If you need help in having these conversations, or how to prepare, our counselors can help.
- Find out about local resources and refer families. Learn more on 211arizona.org.
The phrase ‘it takes a village’ is thrown around a lot when talking about raising children. But all too often, people who need that ‘village’ the most, don’t know where to find it. The best way to make sure children are safe and cared for is with a safe, healthy, supported family.