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Recognize Abuse

ADVOCACY

Our Family Advocate connects with children and families during the initial visit to the CAC and is available to answer questions, provide support, and give up-to-date information to families. In the aftermath of victimization, when children and families are coping with the emotional impact of the initial report and the ensuing process, the Family Advocate is there to help and is dedicated to the safety and well-being of our children and families.

WHAT IS CHILD ABUSE?

Child abuse is harm or threatened harm to a child's health or welfare, which can occur through non-accidental physical or mental injury; sexual abuse or attempted sexual abuse; sexual exploitation or attempted sexual exploitation.
 
SIGNS OF PHYSICAL ABUSE

 PHYSICAL INDICATORS:
•    Unexplained bruises, welts, human bite marks, bald spots
•    Unexplained burns, especially cigarette or immersion burns
•    Unexplained fractures, lacerations, or abrasions
•    Swollen areas
•    Evidence of delayed or inappropriate treatment for injuries

 

BEHAVIORAL INDICATORS:
•    Self-destructive
•    Withdrawn and/or aggressive - behavioral extremes
•    Arrives at school early or stays late as if afraid to be at home
•    Chronic runaway (adolescents)
•    Complains of soreness or moves uncomfortably
•    Wears inappropriate clothing to cover the body (ex., sweaters; long sleeves in hot weather)
•    Bizarre explanation of injuries
•    Wary of adult contact
•    Apprehensive when other children cry
 

SIGNS OF NEGLECT:

Physical Indicators:
•    Abandonment
•    Unattended medical needs
•    Consistent lack of supervision
•    Consistent hunger, inappropriate dress, poor hygiene
•    Lice, distended stomach, emaciated
•    Inadequate nutrition


BEHAVIORAL INDICATORS:
•    Regularly displays fatigue or listlessness (falls asleep in class)
•    Steals food, begs from classmates
•    Reports that no caretaker is at home
•    Frequently absent or tardy
•    Self-destructive
•    School dropout (adolescent)
•    Extreme loneliness and need for affection


 
HOW DO I REPORT SUSPECTED CHILD ABUSE?

MANDATORY REPORTERS:
 In Alabama, certain people are legally required to report suspected child abuse. Those people are known as mandatory reporters. They include professionals like doctors, nurses, dentists, optometrists, pharmacists, school teachers, law enforcement officers, social workers, daycare workers, mental health professionals, and many others. But all persons reporting suspected abuse or neglect (whether required by law or not) are presumed to act in good faith. Alabama law provides immunity from liability for actions by mandatory reporters.

WHEN TO REPORT:
Make a report when you know or suspect that a child is being abused or neglected. Use your professional training and expertise to make this decision. It is unnecessary to prove that the abuse or neglect happened; you have to be reasonably suspicious. It is better to err on the side of wrongful reporting rather than to risk further injury or the death of a child. Do not delay reporting if you do not have all of the needed information. Additional information can be added later.

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY:
If a life-threatening situation exists, ensure the person taking your call understands that emergency intervention is needed. Call 911 immediately!

WHAT TO INCLUDE IN A REPORT:

  • The child’s name and location

  • The parents’ names and address

  • Your name and the name of your agency, organization, or school

  • A clear and concise description of the abuse and neglect with as many specific details as possible

 


WHAT CAN I DO IF MY CHILD HAS BEEN SEXUALLY ABUSED?

BE AWARE OF THE FOLLOWING: 

  • Children are usually molested by people they know; it’s often a relative or friend of the family

  • Children seldom lie about such a serious matter

  • Not all children can tell parents directly that they have been molested. Changes in behavior, reluctance to be with a specific person, or going to a particular place may be signals that something has happened.

  • A child may tell someone other than their parents. It is essential not to be offended by this. Usually, the child feels responsible, ashamed, and afraid they are wrong or “bad.” Consequently, they may be afraid to tell a parent first. Or, as with many cases, the abuser tells the child not to say to the parent and may even threaten them or the parent.

  • Your initial reactions to your child are essential. However, hearing this about your child is shocking and upsetting. If your initial response was not one of support, acceptance, and relative calm, then you can rectify that by going back and talking openly and honestly about how you felt.

  • The child must know you do not blame them and are not angry at them. Also, please do not treat them differently after they disclose. Try and continue things as they have been with more support, time, and communication from you.

 

WHAT TO DO IMMEDIATELY:

  • Go with the child to a private place. Ask the child to tell you what happened in their own words. Listen carefully. Do not ask for details.

  • Tell the child that you are glad they told you what happened and that telling was the right thing to do.

  • If you suspect your child is injured, take them to your pediatrician or emergency room.

  • Contact the Department of Human Resources / Police Department for the county in which you live. This is a crime and must be reported.

  •  Be supportive of your child as they need you. Allow them to talk about it if they want to, but do not quiz or force them to talk.

 

HELPING YOUR CHILD FOLLOWING THE ASSAULT: 

  • Continue to believe your child and do not blame them for what happened

  • Consult with your pediatrician regarding the need for a medical examination

  • Instruct your child to tell you immediately if the offender attempts sexual molestation again or bothers them in any way.

  • Give your child reassurance and support that they are okay. Do not encourage them to “just forget it.” Trying to sweep the problem under the rug usually causes more problems because it will not disappear.

  • Respond to questions or feelings your child expresses about the molestation with a calm, matter-of-fact attitude, but do not pressure them.

  • Respect the privacy of your child by not telling many people. If you need to inform someone other than the authorities, ask the child first and find out how they feel about it.

  • Try to continue with the routine in the home. Expect the usual chores, betimes, and rules. Etc.

  • Take time to talk it over privately with someone you trust. Express your feelings; DO NOT discuss the situation with others in front of your child or other children.

  •  Do not feel afraid to express some of your feelings to and with your child. It may help them to know you are angry too, and work on those feelings together. Appearing as if you are fine and unaffected may make the child feel you do not care.

  • Be careful not to question your child about the abuse. If you do, you can jeopardize the case in court against the abuser.

  • If your child wants to talk about it, listen supportively, but do not probe


TRAINING:

For a Mandatory Reporting Training Presentation, please call the
Pike Regional Child Advocacy Center at 334-670-0487.


Alabama Sex Offender Registry:
 

SAFETY:
KEEPING YOUR CHILD SAFE

  • Participate in your child’s activities.

  • Get to know your child’s friends.

  • Teach your child the difference between good touches and “confusing” touches.

  • Be aware of changes in your child’s behavior or attitude.

  • Ask them questions about how they’re feeling.

  • Listen when your child says they do not want to be with someone and discover why.

  • Be alert for any talk that reveals premature sexual understanding or knowledge.

  • Tell your child what to do if they separate from you when you’re out.

  • Pay attention when someone shows more significant than average interest in your child.

  • Ensure your child’s school will release them to only you or someone you designate.

  • Teach your child the correct names of all their body parts.

  • Never discipline your child when your anger is out of control.

 
HOME ALONE
Every parent eventually faces the decision to leave their child home alone for the first time. Parents need to make sure their child has the skills and maturity to handle the situation safely.
Evaluation of child’s maturity:

  • Is your child physically and mentally able to care for themself?

  • Does your child feel comfortable or fearful about being home alone?

  • Does your child obey rules and make good decisions?

 

CIRCUMSTANCES

When and how a child is left home alone can affect their safety.

Consider the following questions:

  • How long will your child be left home alone at one time?

  • Will it be during the morning, afternoon, or evening? Will the child need to fix a meal?

  • How often will the child be expected to care for themself?

  • How many children are being left home alone? (Children who may be ready to stay home alone may not be prepared to care for younger siblings).

  • Are your home and neighborhood safe and free of hazards?

 

SAFETY SKILLS

Your child must know what to do and whom to contact in an emergency. You may want to consider enrolling your child in a safety course.

Consider the following questions:

  • Does your family have a safety plan for emergencies?

  • Does your child know their full name, address, and phone number?

  • Does your child know where you are and how always to contact you?

  • Does your child learn other trusted adults’ full terms and contact information in case of an emergency?


PARENT TIPS

The following suggestions may help you prepare your child and to feel more comfortable about leaving your child alone.

  • Have a trial period — Leave the child home alone for a short time while staying close to home.

  • Role play— Act out possible situations to help your child learn what to do.

  • Establish rules— Ensure your child knows what is and is not allowed when you are not home.

  • Check-in— Call your child while you are away to see how it’s going, or have a trusted neighbor or friend check-in.

  • Talk about it — Encourage your child to share feelings about staying home alone.

Please don’t overdo it. Even a mature, responsible child shouldn’t be home alone too much. Consider other options, such as school programs, community centers, or churches.


CYBER CITIZENSHIP

They are growing Great Cyber Citizens. Today’s children and adolescents are the first generation to grow up with technology wholly integrated into their daily lives. Noted educational consultant and thought leader Marc Prensky calls these children “digital natives.” In contrast to their parents, they have spent their entire lives surrounded by and using computers, video games, mobile phones, digital music players, digital cameras, and all the other tools of the digital age. Their parents, in contrast, are “digital immigrants.” They may be technologically savvy but still process the world differently than their native digital children.

Encouraging responsible technology use is essential to protecting children from online threats. Because it would be impossible for parents to keep up with every new technology platform with which children interact, parents must have open dialogs with their children about the responsible use of technology and online reputation management. Parents should be concerned not with limiting their children’s use of technology or completely removing potential dangers but rather with teaching their children how to behave responsibly and safely in an interconnected world.

Resources for further information to help you protect your children:

 


PARENT-CHILD CONVERSATION STARTERS:

  • Have you ever wanted to take something back when you post it online?

  • What are some ways that you can use social media for good?

  • What would you like our online relationship to look like?

  • Tell me about your online friends. Are there any you haven’t met in person?

  • Are there topics you would like to know more about that you are uncomfortable talking to me about?

  • What are your favorite mobile apps? Can you show me how to use them to communicate?

  • Do you know how to flag/report inappropriate content in ALL your favorite apps, sites, and games?

  • Are your profiles set to private? Why or why not?

  • What personal information do you share online?

  • Have you ever been asked to share an inappropriate picture of yourself or someone else?

  • Do you know what to do if someone sends or requests an inappropriate photo?

  • If anything happens online that makes you uncomfortable, who could you talk to about that?

  • Have you ever been bullied or witnessed someone else being bullied? What did you do?

  • Have you ever been a bully? Have you ever posted something you wouldn’t have said to someone face to face?

  • What kind of reputation are you building online?

  • Do you know the laws associated with online activity?

  • Do you know that anonymous apps aren’t entirely anonymous?

  • Do you know that counselors and future employers will be checking your profile?

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