by Krystle Hilliard-Mitchell
Recognizing Child Abuse
By Krystle Hilliard-Mitchell
Louisiana Alliance of Children’s Advocacy Centers (LACAC)
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. Child abuse is a taboo topic that many do not care to discuss; however, with approximately five child deaths reported every day, we should recognize that this epidemic is taking over our communities and should be prepared to respond appropriately. The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), as amended and reauthorized by the CAPTA Reauthorization Act of 2010, defines child abuse and neglect as, at a minimum, “any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation (including sexual abuse as determined under section 111), or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm” (42 U.S.C. 5101 note, § 3).
When someone hears the term “child abuse,” they most commonly associate it with physical abuse; however, there are four types of abuse to include physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and child neglect. Physical abuse is the deliberate intention to inflict pain. Wounds, bruises, burns, fractures, and sore muscles are signs of physical abuse, but abuse can also result from severe acts of discipline. Emotional abuse is behaviors toward the child that cause mental anguish (also called psychological abuse). Examples of emotional abuse are shouting often at the child, withholding kindness or affection, extended periods of silence, and harsh jokes at the expense of the child.
Child neglect is the most common type of child abuse and can be defined as parents or caregivers who are continually unavailable for the child. Neglect occurs even if the parent is physically present but unavailable or refuses to care for the child or meet their needs. Sexual abuse is defined as touching a child in a sexual manner, or having sexual relations with the child is sexual abuse and includes any behavior toward the child for sexual stimulation. This type of abuse is characterized by fondling, forced sexual acts, and indecent physical exposure. In the United States, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused by their 18th birthday.
Though these stats are alarming, we are so thankful to have 15 Children’s Advocacy Centers in the state of Louisiana to assist child victims of abuse. Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs) are community-based, child-friendly, and trauma-informed organizations that coordinate a multidisciplinary response to child maltreatment allegations. CACs deliver a best practice model that brings together child protective services investigators, law enforcement, forensic interviewers, prosecutors, family advocates, and medical and mental health professionals to provide a coordinated, comprehensive response to victims and their caregivers. Simply put, CACs are a safe haven for child victims and their non-offending caregivers as they assist them on their road to healing and justice. The Louisiana Alliance of Children’s Advocacy Centers (LACAC) is the state association dedicated to supporting each CAC and ensuring that every victim of child abuse in Louisiana has access to the services they need to experience justice and healing.
During April, you will find blue pinwheel gardens planted throughout the community. In 2008, Prevent Child Abuse America introduced the blue pinwheel as the national symbol for child abuse prevention. The pinwheel represents the great childhood that every child deserves and the role we all play in providing a loving and supportive environment for the children in our lives. You will also hear of various activities such as social media campaigns, proclamation ceremonies, prevention education sessions, and more! To find a Child Abuse Prevention Month event near you, please visit the LACAC Facebook page, www.facebook/lacacs, or our website at www.lacacs.org.
Executive Director | Louisiana Alliance of Children’s Advocacy Centers (LACAC)
Louisiana Alliance of Children’s Advocacy Centers’ mission is to promote and support Children’s Advocacy Centers in providing a coordinated multidisciplinary response to child victims of abuse through development, training and advocacy.