Each week I do a special post about babies. They are special, kind, and so beautiful, babies are the world’s magic. But sadly each day countless children are abused in terrible ways and this week, the last week in April, I wanted to take a moment to address child abuse with our special feature Friday’s Baby. Today we take a time out from giggling babies, adorable pictures that make us smile and for a moment focus on something that should never be brushed away.
Child Abuse in America
Children are suffering from a hidden epidemic of child abuse and neglect. Every year 3.3 million reports of child abuse are made in the United States involving nearly 6 million children (a report can include multiple children). The United States has the worst record in the industrialized nation – losing five children every day due to abuse-related deaths. 1
A report of child abuse is made every ten seconds.
Child abuse is everywhere. There’s no special income bracket, no race, no location on this earth that is free from the evils of child abuse. Physical violence, neglect,, sexual torment, and just as horrible the language of abuse. Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education.
About 30% of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children, continuing the horrible cycle of abuse. 5
The children can’t defend themselves, can’t speak up for themselves. It is up to the rest of us to defend and demand justice for these souls. Approximately 80% of children that die from abuse are under the age of 4.
April is Abuse awareness month, but a month is far too short. We can’t just go on with our lives at the end of the month and forget about this terrible epidemic happening all around us.
All types of child abuse and neglect leave lasting scars. Some of these scars might be physical, but emotional scarring has long-lasting effects throughout life, damaging a child’s sense of self, ability to have healthy relationships, and ability to function at home, at work and at school. Some effects include:
- Lack of trust and relationship difficulties. If you can’t trust your parents, who can you trust? Abuse by a primary caregiver damages the most fundamental relationship as a child—that you will safely, reliably get your physical and emotional needs met by the person who is responsible for your care. Without this base, it is very difficult to learn to trust people or know who is trustworthy. This can lead to difficulty maintaining relationships due to fear of being controlled or abused. It can also lead to unhealthy relationships because the adult doesn’t know what a good relationship is.
- Core feelings of being “worthless” or “damaged.” If you’ve been told over and over again as a child that you are stupid or no good, it is very difficult to overcome these core feelings. You may experience them as reality. Adults may not strive for more education, or settle for a job that may not pay enough, because they don’t believe they can do it or are worth more. Sexual abuse survivors, with the stigma and shame surrounding the abuse, often especially struggle with a feeling of being damaged.
- Trouble regulating emotions. Abused children cannot express emotions safely. As a result, the emotions get stuffed down, coming out in unexpected ways. Adult survivors of child abuse can struggle with unexplained anxiety, depression, or anger. They may turn to alcohol or drugs to numb out the painful feelings.
You can help. Do everything you can do if you suspect child abuse. Even if that abuser is someone you love, even if that abuser is you. There are people who want to help. Don’t let another child live with the emotional scars of abuse, end the cycle now!