Friday, December 30, 2005

Signs of child abuse: Part 2

Taking a closer look at 'silent victimization'

Yesterday's post on child abuse offered some suggestions to teachers on how to spot children who may be victims of abuse. Approximately 12 out of every 1,000 American children up to age 17 are treated for child abuse each year. Len, publisher of InnerVue, provides some insight on the impact to young victims.

She writes, "Emotional abuse is probably the cause of so many people experiencing depression, anxiety, anti-social behavior, and anger. This silent victimization can begin in childhood and the effects of it expands into adulthood, and the cycle repeats itself."

Len also recommends taking a look at the American Humane website - a great resource for anyone with an interest in child safety.

Defining emotional abuse

According to American Humane, "emotional abuse of a child is commonly defined as a pattern of behavior by parents or caregivers that can seriously interfere with a child's cognitive, emotional, psychological, or social development." To learn what constitutes emotional abuse, also known as psychological maltreatment, click here.

Abuse can take many forms, and some children can suffer from more than one type. According to data collected by the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS), the majority of children confirmed to be victims of mistreatment experience neglect. Following are the percentages of children who experience some form of abuse:

Neglect 59.2%
Physical abuse 18.6%
Sexual abuse 9.6%
Emotional/psychological 6.8%
Other 19.5%

"Other" includes abandonment, threats to harm the child, congenital drug addiction, and other situations that are not counted as specific categories in NCANDS. The percentages here add up to more than 100% because some children were victims of more than one type of abuse.

Race, gender and age of victims

In 2001, according to America Humane, roughly half (50.2%) of children who were abused were white, 25% were African American, and 14.5% were Hispanic. American Indians and Alaska Natives accounted for 2% of victims, and Asian-Pacific Islanders accounted for 1.3% of victims. These rates have remained consistent for the past several years. Boys are targeted as often as girls.

Teacher cites examples of abuse

Jaimie, publisher of Life Is Hilarious, is a kindergarten teacher. This veteran educator knows all too well that life is not always hilarious in the classroom. Jaimie shares some first-hand knowledge of what she has seen at her school:

One girl in kindergarten, who was not in my class, came to school with a black eye. Her sister, who was in 4th grade, came to school with a broken nose. Mom spent time in jail, then was released and the girls were back with her. It's just a matter of time before it happens again.

Another story: I had a child in my class who was extremely intelligent (reading at a second/third grade level), but who was absent frequently, would crawl into classroom closets, and purposely sabotage her work. She eventually told me that her mother's boyfriend was beating up her mom, and even broke her nose (I saw the mom's broken nose, but she told me she was 'in a car accident'). The girl was constantly living in fear. They ended up moving to Las Vegas.

Jaimie adds that the article by Kristen Houghton (featured in the previous post) was informative, but Jaimie would have liked to have seen more clarity in some areas.

"Some children are just more quiet than others, and some children just have strange dispositions," she says. "It is hard to detect an abused child if you were to rely on personality alone."

If you suspect your student is a victim of child abuse, report it to the appropriate school personnel so that the local child protection agency can be contacted. If the child is in immediate danger, call the police.

Web Resources

The Children's Bureau

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration
for Children and Families

The National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information

American Psychology Association

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
Facts for Families

Psychology Today

Dr. Deborah Serani
What parents need to know about child abuse

Tags: Children, Parenting, , Education, , , , ,

© 2005 D. C. Sistrunk - All rights reserved.


Len said...

Thanks, DCS for sharing more detail information on this subject. Sometimes parents and caregivers may not realize their actions or words can be destructive to their child. I have witnessed parents and guardians cuss their little ones as if they were cussing another adult. Cruel words can affect a child's psyche especially coming from a parent or person of authority.

Perhaps more awareness of Emotional Abuse would be beneficial to educators and caregivers especially since the symptoms are hard to detect in children.

DCS thanks for the honorable mention on your blog. :)

DCS said...

Len: Thanks to you and Jaimie for inspiring me to give some additional space to this topic. I, too, have witnessed parents and caregivers cursing at chiildren.

Sadly, I have even known teachers to do the same to students. Fortunately, these educators represent a very small minority. Those who engage in this type of behavior dishonor to the profession.

Without a doubt, cruel words hurt. Children deserve our respect. Thanks again for your insightful remarks.

Rose said...

Oh this is good research stuff for something I am working on...Have a happy New Years and don't work so hard....

DCS said...

@ Rose: Hey, just make sure you cite me! LOL
Seriously, I'm glad this information helps your project. Happy New Year to you and your family, Rose.

Cecilia said...

Children are SO innocent and SO sensitive to the new world around them. The fact that everything is new means that whatever kind of abuse they initally get translates to something they HAVE to live with. In turn, they think that this is a way of life.

And what about those children who are forced to act like adults? There are cultures whereby it is but normal for these kids to take over the responsibilities of their parents.

I am deviating from your topic but I just would like to point out how important it is for kids to experience REAL childhood.

And, perhaps, if everyone gets that chance, then all these psycho-hoopla-de-dooh among adults wouldn't be so much.

Wouldn't the world then be a better place to live in?

A hearty Happy New Year's greeting to you.

Deb Sistrunk said...

Cecilia: I couldn't have said it better! You have not deviated from the topic at all. In fact, you have added another important dimension.

I am a bleeding heart for children like the ones you describe. Like you, I believe that children deserve to have a childhood. Many of my daughter's friends are forced to deal with too many adult issues in their young lives.

Yes, the world would be a better place if we all treated children with kindness. The world would also be a better place if we had more people with your passion and commitment.

It's always good to hear from you. Happy New Year!

Len said...

Do not get me started talking about the kids forced to take on adult roles or responsibilities. I have known underage kids who had to cook, clean, and take of their siblings. Some of these kids become adults, have a family, and still end up taking care of a drug-addicted parent. It then becomes a burden on the adult child and his or her family.

Sadly, sometimes the parent because of guilt will mistreat the adult child caring for him or her. And we wonder why people are unhappy. It may be because of what they’re going through at home every day.

One young girl whose mother was incarcerated had been passed through various foster homes and been abused in the process said to me. "Sometimes I feel like jumping off a bridge." This child was only twelve years old. Can you imagine the hardships she must have experienced to bring about suicidal thoughts at such a young age?

I don’t want to sound depressing but there are kids out there experiencing a life of hardship that no adult should have to endure much less a child.

Thanks for the resourceful links DCS. I'm going to add them to my directory.

Jaimie said...

Thanks for providing more info on this subject. As a recovering victim myself of emotional and verbal abuse, it is hard to identify. No one had no idea what I was going through, and I am an adult. Imagine how hard it is for a child to show and express.

DCS said...

Len: You don't sound depressing at all. All of the scenarios you present are very real. I'm sure many people have learned something new from what you have shared. I'm glad you find the links helpful.

Len, Cecilia and Jaimie: When perceptive people like you speak up, it opens up the eyes of others. Or it encourages individuals who may have gone some of these experiences to speak up. All of you have provided a great public service. Thank you.

Lesley Kring said...

The devastating affect of emotional abuse is amplified by the loathsome individuals who stand silently in observance of the abuse and fail to speak up for the child.

General Characteristics of Emotionally Abusive Mothers

Making the child/teen feel responsible for the mother's feelings.

Threatening them in general.

Threatening them specifically with rejection or abandonment.

Threatening them with vague, unstated consequences.

Using force upon them.

Invalidating their feelings.

Laying undeserved guilt on them.

Placing undeserved blame on them.

Dominating the conversations.

Refusing to apologize.

Always needing to have the last word.

Judging or rejecting their friends.

Sending them to their rooms for crying.

Locking them out of the house.

Using punishments and rewards to manipulate and control them.

Invading their privacy.

Under-estimating them.

Failing to show trust in them.

Labeling them.

Criticizing them.

Giving them the silent treatment.

Failing to give them real explanations.

Giving non-explanations such "because i said so"