Child abuse: If you see something, say something

There were more than 3,000 reports of child abuse or neglect last year at CARE House, Montgomery County’s child advocacy center. It can be physical, sexual or neglect but the result for the child is the same. “Children can feel powerless, voiceless and alone when facing abuse,” says Libby Nicholson, director of CARE House.

April is National Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month. Community agencies and organizations are coming together to make sure that children have a voice and families have the support they need to give kids the happy, carefree childhood they deserve.

A key component to the month is dedicated to teaching parents how to prevent child abuse, recognize the signs and what they need to do if they spot those signs.

Prevention

Give your child the right to 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”. “It is through prevention efforts such as this that we are better able to protect children,” says Nicholson.

As simple as it seems, talking to your child is essential. Parents should know what is going on in their child’s life. They will be more likely to share when something is bothering them, if the doors of communication are already open. Teach them to never keep secrets, no matter what anyone tells them.

The signs

“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 Nicholson. Children may have 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 wrong.

Report suspected abuse or neglect

Don’t ignore the feeling that something is wrong. If you suspect abuse, get in touch with your local Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) such as the CARE House at 937-641-4545, Montgomery County prosecutor’s office at 937-224-KIDS (5437) or call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (224453).

Many programs will bring awareness to this issue this month. Families may see a variety of advertisements on special topics this month related to keeping children safe from abuse or neglect. Radio campaigns will encourage safe sleep for infants, internet safety, no drinking for pregnant women and warn of the dangers of heroin. In addition, a donation from Evenflo through the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s office positive parenting program will provide car seats and strollers to area social service agencies.

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This look at a children’s health or safety issue comes from Dayton Children’s Hospital. Email: newsroom@childrensdayton.org.

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