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Child Abuse Prevention Month: Know the 10 Signs of Abuse and Neglect

April 8, 2015


In the U.S., four children die every day as a result of child abuse.

One in 10 kids are the victim of sexual abuse before they turn 18 - a staggering total of 400,000 children a year.

The statistics bear out in Idaho, too. In 2014, more than 2,300 children were seen by Children's Advocacy Center professionals because of abuse allegations. St. Luke's CARES, which operates two of Idaho's five accredited Children's Advocacy Centers, saw more than 1,250 of those kids last year.

But many more cases go unreported.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and on Wednesday a group of agencies and organizations dedicated to protecting Idaho's kids from abuse sponsored the first annual Idaho Child Abuse Prevention Rally on the steps of the Capitol in Boise. St. Luke's CARES was one of the rally's organizers.

In addition to hearing stories of survival and courage, rally attendees were encouraged to learn the signs of child abuse and to "see something, say something."

10 Signs of Child Abuse

  1. Unexplained Injuries: Visible signs of physical abuse may include unexplained burns or bruises in the shape of objects. You may also hear unconvincing explanations of a child's injuries.
  2. Changes in Behavior: Abuse can lead to many changes in a child's behavior. Abused children often appear scared, anxious, depressed, withdrawn or more aggressive.
  3. Returning to Earlier Behaviors: Abused children may display behaviors shown at earlier ages, such as thumb-sucking, bed-wetting, and fear of the dark or strangers. For some children, even loss of acquired language or memory problems can be an issue.
  4. Fear of Going Home: Abused children may express apprehension or anxiety about leaving school or about going places with the person who is abusing them.
  5. Changes in Eating: The stress, fear and anxiety caused by abuse can lead to changes in a child's eating behaviors, which may result in weight gain or weight loss.
  6. Changes in Sleeping: Abused children may have frequent nightmares or have difficulty falling asleep, and as a result may appear tired or fatigued.
  7. Changes in School Performance and Attendance: Abused children may have difficulty concentrating in school or have excessive absences, sometimes due to adults trying to hide the children's injuries from authorities.
  8. Lack of Personal Care or Hygiene: Abused and neglected children may appear uncared for. They may present as consistently dirty or have severe body odor, or they may lack sufficient clothing for the weather.
  9. Risk-taking Behaviors: Young people who are being abused may engage in high-risk activities such as using drugs or alcohol or carrying a weapon.
  10. Inappropriate Sexual Behaviors: Children who have been sexually abused may exhibit overly sexualized behavior or use explicit sexual language.
What to do if a child outcries
  • Remain calm
  • Believe the child
  • Allow the child to talk
  • Show interest and concern
  • Reassure and support the child
  • Take action. It could save a child's life
What NOT to do if a child outcries
  • Panic or overreact
  • Press the child to talk
  • Promise anything you can't control
  • Confront the offender
  • Blame or minimize the child's feelings
  • Overwhelm the child with questions
Source: Idaho Network of Children's Advocacy Centers

It is a law that any suspected child abuse must be reported to authorities. Reports can be made 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling 211 or 855-552-KIDS.

St. Luke's CARES (Children at Risk Evaluation Services)

St. Luke's CARES has clinics in Boise and the Magic Valley. CARES was established in 1989 to provide children with a sensitive, friendly, expertly-staffed environment to be evaluated. St. Luke's CARES clinics have been accredited by the National Children's Alliance since 1995 and are staffed by social workers and medical providers who have received specialized training in the areas of child abuse and neglect.

CARES evaluations are only scheduled upon referral from child protective services, law enforcement, prosecutors and the courts.

For more information abut CARES Boise, call 208-577-4460. For CARES Magic Valley, call 208-814-7750.