If you want to turn around the lives of children at risk, give them an ear and someone to talk to, so they don’t feel responsible for what’s going on in their home. At the same time, find something that makes them feel special, something they are naturally adept at that allows them to excel. That’s what builds a strong sense of self.”
– “Judge Judy” Sheindlin, Keynote speaker at the Cherish the Child Luncheon
Palm Springs Life, April 2009
Counseling and Preventing Child Abuse
What is Child Abuse?
Includes beating, burning or punching a child.
May involve criticizing, insulting, rejecting or withholding love from a child.
Includes rape, touching/fondling or involving a child in pornography.
Includes failure to provide for a child’s basic physical, emotional or educational needs. (Leaving a young child home alone or failing to provide needed medical care may be considered neglect.)
Tips for Parents
- Listen to your children; do not simply “hear” what they say.
- Pay attention to your child’s appearance. Ask about scrapes and bruises, redness or injuries around the genitals.
- Take notice of sudden uncharacteristic behavior changes: if he/she becomes aggressive or withdrawn, shows unusual fears of certain people, places, or has an unusual knowledge or interest of sex. Ask questions and get professional help. Take these signs very seriously.
- Teach your children how to protect themselves and set clear rules. Tell them why it is so important they obey your rules.
- Teach your children to trust their instincts.
- Children need to know that most adults ask other adults for help, i.e., for directions, help moving, looking for pets, etc.
- Know where your child is and whom they are with.
- Make sure your child knows he/she is the most important person in your life; that you will always be there and will do your best to protect them.
- Because you cannot be with your child 24 hours a day, it is a good idea to have a secret code word to use to send special messages, or when he feels uncomfortable or in trouble. If for some reason you are unable to pick up your child from school and you need to send a friend, give your friend the code word. Choose a word like toothpick or giraffe, one that would not come up in a normal conversation. Do not use words such as mommy, car, ice cream or candy.
- Make sure your child knows his home telephone number and address.
- Tell them it is okay to say “No” to an adult.
- Remember, most child abusers are “ordinary” people.
- Most child abusers are known and even loved by the child they abuse.
- It is more common for a child to be abused by a family member or a family friend than by a stranger.
- Ask children if they like their babysitter, doctor, relatives, etc., and why.
- Don’t push a child to give hugs or kisses or spend time alone with anyone they are not completely comfortable with.
If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, call the Child Protective Services, Family Service or Law Enforcement agency in your area. Report your concerns immediately. You do not have to leave your name, but the report may be taken more seriously if you do.
Tips for Parents is adapted from “Yes Touch No Touch” by Tammy Soares Beilstein
Facts About Child Abuse
- More than two million children in the United States will be reported abused each year. Thousands will die as a result of the abuse.
- As many as one in four girls and one in 10 boys are sexually abused by age 18. Girls are three times as likely as boys to experience childhood sexual assault.
- Almost one-half of the women in the United States jails and prisons said they had been sexually abused before their imprisonment.
- Nearly all juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker; and about two-thirds of the abusers are family members.