Child Abuse: What can we do to stop it?

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Child abuse is a dangerous and pervasive problem, and it’s easy to feel like there’s not much you can do to stop it from happening. Today, in honor of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, I am going to discuss the nature of the problem, and what you can do to prevent child abuse this month and the rest of the year.

The Facts:

  • 670,340 children were abused or neglected in the United States in 2012 – that’s one child every 47 seconds.
  • Nearly 40 percent of reported child abuse and neglect victims receive no post-investigation services.
  • Research suggests that only 1 in 10 instances of child abuse are actually reported to the appropriate authorities.
  • Adverse Childhood Experiences such as abuse are correlated with a wide range of health problems – both physical and mental – typically stemming from psychological trauma.
  • Having been abused as a child is a major risk factor for becoming an abuser as an adult, and many of the risk factors for becoming an abuser look awfully similar to the symptoms of having been abused (mental health challenges, etc).
  • Evidence-based therapeutic approaches to preventing child abuse and helping families overcome trauma are becoming increasingly popular. While several decades ago, the support a child or family received would be largely at the discretion of individual social workers, today evidence-based interventions are becoming standard practice.

What You Can Do About It:

  • Familiarize yourself with the warning signs of child abuse, and abuse reporting hotlines for your area. If you have trouble finding your local hotline, the National Hotline should be able to connect you.
  • If you suspect that a child is being abused, don’t keep quiet about it – call the hotline and do what you can to make sure that child gets the help they need.
  • If you observe a risk factor for abuse, including substance abuse, mental health issues, or a lack of understanding of a child’s needs and development, encourage the person to get help. Seeking help for these issues can take great personal strength, so be supportive and do what you can to fight the stigma.
  • Raise awareness about the prevalence and dangers of child abuse by sharing this information with your friends, family, and social media acquaintances.
  • Donate to a charity that raises awareness about reporting and preventing child abuse, implements evidence-based approaches to preventing and responding to child abuse and associated traumas, advocates for families, or one that does all three of those things, like The New York Foundling.
* Full disclosure: I work for The New York Foundling, but the views expressed are my own  – genuine and off the clock!
If you want more tips on how to make the world a better place, check out my Advice & Tips section. As always, thanks for reading!
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