It’s a topic that is largely kept quiet. But each day, 13 children are reported abused or neglected in Montgomery County. It is because of these children that local and national organizations come together every year in April to raise awareness and break the silence on this very important issue.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. The month is dedicated to teaching people how to recognize the signs of child abuse and what steps they can take to prevent it. Child abuse is far more prevalent than many believe. The national organization Darkness to Light found that one in 10 children are sexually abused before their 18th birthday. Locally, CARE House, Montgomery County’s children’s advocacy center, saw more than 600 children in the past year who were victims of physical or sexual abuse.
“Children can feel powerless, voiceless and alone when facing abuse. It is important for parents to stay alert to the warning signs and for children to know they can come to you for help,” says Libby Nicholson, director of CARE House.
5 tips to help keep your child safe:
1. Communicate with your child every day. As simple as it is, staying up to date on who they are around, what they did, and how they feel is essential. Avoid interrogating, and instead hold a normal, comfortable conversation. If your child starts to disclose sexual abuse, remain calm and ask questions such as, “Can you tell me more about that?”
2. Teach your child they can say “no.” Explain to your child that his or her body belongs to them alone, and that they don’t have to do anything that makes them uncomfortable. Also, teach them the correct names for their body parts and which ones are their “private parts.”
3. Explain that they can always come to you. If a person is making them feel “funny,” “uncomfortable,” “bad,” etc., teach your child to tell you or someone they trust. Let your child know that they can always tell you anything no matter what anyone else tells them. Also, teach your child not to keep secrets from you.
4. Know the signs of abuse. Spot abuse by noticing signs of stress in your child, such as noticeable changes in behavior, school performance, sleeping patterns, or eating. Other symptoms include watchfulness, shrinking at the approach of an adult, or demonstrating unusual sexual knowledge or behavior. Follow your instincts as a parent if you feel that something is going on.
5. Report suspected abuse or neglect. Last, but certainly not least, if you suspect abuse, report it. Get in touch with your local Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) such as the CARE House at 937-641-4545 or call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (224453) to make sure that your child is getting the right care.
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