Help for Victims of Child Abuse
Child abuse is a serious issue that unfortunately occurs when you least expect it. As parents, your job is to find the most adequate, trustworthy and efficient care for your children, and the devastation of realizing the people or facility you hired to care for your children did not do so is unspeakable. From daycare workers to babysitters to nannies and even people who are related to your child, anyone is capable of neglecting or abusing a child. This is not to say that they will, or to frighten parents. However, it’s a fact that there are thousands of instances of child abuse throughout the country that are reported every year.
Many childcare givers are loving and wonderful. They work with your kids, care for them and love them like their own. They are there to kiss boo-boos from little accidents, tuck the kids into bed while you’re on a date night with your spouse or even help them with their ABCs and 123s. But, sadly, some children are abused by their caregivers and families of those children need to know that there is legal action available to take. While a standard bump and a little bruise is one thing – and something that can happen to kids at any time – there is a difference between a little everyday child activity and abuse. The long-term effects of abuse are serious for the mental and emotional health of your child, and your family deserves more.
What Constitutes as Child Abuse?
To be very simple, there are four different types of child abuse. There is physical, emotional, neglect and sexual. Each one encompasses a completely different realm of abuse that has to be discussed. It’s difficult to read this information and to process the fact that this does sometimes happen to innocent children, but it’s imperative you know and understand what abuse means in any form.
The problem with physical abuse is that kids are usually always covered in scratches and bruises and bumps. A child might run and fall, bumping her head. She might jump off the couch and land on her arm and break it. She might fall off a bike and bruise her knee. This, however, is not considered abuse in any way. These are accidents and injuries that occur doing the things that kids do. There is a big difference, and it should not be confused with physical abuse. However, caretakers who are physically abusing children might work very hard to convince parents that the marks and bruises on their child’s body are a result of an innocent accident. Use your gut, speak to your kids and learn to recognize the signs of physical abuse.
Physical abuse is defined as physical punishment or pain inflicted on a child by another human. It is not a child falling off a bike. Rather, it is a child being pushed off a bike by an adult for not listening that constitutes abuse. It is not a child who has a bump on her head from tripping and falling down the steps. It is a bump on the head as a result of being hit.
Signs of physical abuse typically include the following:
- Frequent injuries
- Unexplained injuries on a child’s body
- Children who shrink in fear when they do something wrong or someone is angry with them.
- Children who are constantly alert and on edge
- Children who flinch when you touch them
- Children who flinch at sudden movements
- Children who voice that their caretaker is abusive
- Children who suddenly do not want anything to do with daycare
While all of these can be explained on their own as something innocent, such as a simple case of separation anxiety with a child who is no longer excited to go to school or seems afraid of being left there, put together these are very serious signs you simply cannot ignore.
Emotional Child Abuse
Emotional abuse is very difficult to determine. It has such a broad range of meanings, but the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect has a very firm understanding of emotional abuse when it comes to children. “Acts or omissions by the caregivers that have caused, or could cause, serious behavioral, cognitive, emotional, or mental disorders,” is the definition given. However, it remains difficult to define. It might be a punishment that is so severe that it seems like so much more than just emotional, but it doesn’t fall under the terms of physical.
For example, take the childhood – and adult – favorite, Harry Potter. His aunt and uncle leave him locked in a cupboard under the stairs and do not provide him with anything more than the very basic necessities he requires to live. That is not physical abuse, but leaving him there in a dark cupboard without what he needs for extended periods of time can cause a child to experience serious emotional issues, and it is defined as emotional abuse.
Additionally, emotional abuse might also include rejection, scapegoating or belittling a child. It’s difficult to put a definition on it, because everyone emotionally abuses someone at some point. It could be anything from telling a child that he will never amount to anything to telling him that he is stupid or not good at something. Signs of emotional abuse typically include the following:
- Fearful behavior
- Withdrawn behavior
- Anxious behavior about doing everything wrong
- Extremes in behavior
- A lack of attachment to a caregiver
Each of these is a sign of emotional abuse. But, again, also a sign of a number of other things. Different personality types are different in terms of behavior. A child with a Type-A personality might always portray an overwhelming feeling of anxiousness about anything he or she does. A child who is an introvert might not form attachments with anyone, especially a caregiver he or she knows is not a forever part of their life. However, you and your child know what is normal and what is not. When something seems abnormal but falls into this spectrum, it could mean a number of different things, including the occurrence of emotional abuse.
Neglect is defined as a person’s willful lack of providing food, shelter, clothing, support, and care for a child. For example, a caretaker who refuses to give a child a pair of clean pants to wear after he or she has a potty accident is neglecting a child. A caretaker who denies a child food throughout the day is neglectful – though not to be confused with a caretaker who feeds a child at meal time and refuses to allow a child to snack or to have what he or she wants during mealtime. For example, a caretaker is not neglecting your child if she refuses to allow him ice cream for breakfast but offers cereal instead. Just as a caretaker is not neglecting your child if she presents the child with food and the child says he or she is not eating that.
Signs of neglect often include the following:
- Dirty clothes
- Inappropriate clothes for the weather
- A child who is malnourished
- A child who is dehydrated
- A child who has untreated injuries
- A child who has untreated illness
- A child who is not supervised
Again, though, kids come home dirty after playing outside, spilling food on their clothes and making a mess with paint. They also sometimes refuse to wear a jacket when it’s cold. However, there is a very obvious difference between a child who is just being a child not wearing a jacket and looking like a mess due to fun or activity versus one who is being neglected. You know your child, and you know how your child operates on a normal basis.
Sexual Abuse in Children
Perhaps the most dangerous and most disgusting form of abuse associated with children, sexual abuse is something that happens far more often than anyone wants to believe. Sexual abuse can encompass a wide range of features, including indecent exposure, sexual exploitation, malicious acts, inappropriate contact and more. Signs of sexual abuse might include the following:
- A child who has trouble walking or sitting
- A child with an advanced knowledge of sexual acts inappropriate for his or her age
- A child interested in sex at an inappropriate age
- Children who work very hard to avoid certain people
- Children who do not want to change clothes in front of you or do anything that is a physical activity
If you Believe You Have a Child Injury Case, Act Now
If you suspect your child is the victim of any type of abuse, now is the time to act. It’s not easy to prove and it’s very hard to acknowledge for many families. You have to spend the time and resources to find out if you can prove someone is abusing your child. It’s not always possible, and sometimes the best you can do is voice your suspicions and then remove your children from a person’s care. You can speak to other parents at daycare facilities, other teachers, your children, and find out if there are others who are worried about the same behavior or if there are any witnesses to any specific behavior. The most important thing you can do is recognize the signs of abuse in all forms.
Another step is to contact your local Child Protective Services Agency and request an investigation. Provide all the proof you have, your suspicions and anything else that might help the case at all. Your local law enforcement and child protective services will work together to see if they can find proof and handle a situation of this stature. A child’s wellbeing is always first.
Contact Child Care Abuse Attorney Tom Schimmerling Today
Call us at Schimmerling Injury Law Firm. We can help you understand your rights, what you can and cannot do in regards to a child abuse case, how to proceed and anything else that you need to know to handle this situation. Children who suffer abuse oftentimes suffer for the rest of their lives, even if it occurs when they are young. Psychological issues, emotional issues, attachment issues, long-term physical issues and so many other issues can occur if abuse is present in a child’s life, and that is why it is so imperative that all kids are given the chance to live safely. Call attorney Tom Schimmerling today to discuss your legal rights and options when it comes to the safety of your children.