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Aside from the immediate physical injuries, children can experience through maltreatment, a child’s reactions to abuse or neglect can have lifelong and even intergenerational impacts. Childhood maltreatment can be linked to later physical, psychological, and behavioral consequences as well as costs to society as a whole. These consequences may be independent of each other, but they also may be interrelated.
Each year, more than 6 million children in the United States are referred to Child Protective Services for abuse or neglect. Previous research on the consequences of early life stress and child maltreatment shows that these children will be more likely to develop a multitude of social and mental health problems. Teens and adults who experienced early adversity such as abuse, neglect or extreme deprivation are more likely to be socially isolated, spend time in jail, and develop psychological disorders including anxiety and depression.
Children are especially vulnerable to sex traffickers. Many people think that human trafficking means kidnapping and moving victims across state or national borders.
After working with human trafficking victims as a forensic nurse and now while teaching at Texas A&M University’s College of Nursing, I know that this often is not the case.
I have found that many perpetrators find, entice and sell their victims right in their own backyards.
As Australia’s landmark Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and other cases have shown, the impact of child sexual abuse is devastating.
Adverse mental health outcomes are the most recognized and researched effects of abuse. These can include post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and feelings of guilt, shame, anger and low self-esteem.
Physical abuse is non-accidental physical injury (ranging from minor bruises to severe fractures or death) as a result of punching, beating, kicking, biting, shaking, throwing, stabbing, choking, hitting (with a hand, stick, strap, or another object), burning, or otherwise harming a child, that is inflicted by a parent, caregiver, or other person who has responsibility for the child. Such injury is considered abuse regardless of whether the caregiver intended to hurt the child. Physical discipline, such as spanking or paddling, is not considered abuse as long as it is reasonable and causes no bodily injury to the child.
The first step in helping abused or neglected children is learning to recognize the signs of child abuse and neglect. The presence of a single sign does not mean that child maltreatment is occurring in a family, but a closer look at the situation may be warranted when these signs appear repeatedly or in combination.
Juvenile Sex Offenders
A sad fact is that sometimes children and teens are sex offenders. Some of these children may live in a home that is investigated for neglect and abuse, while others may be in foster case. It’s vital that the safety and wellbeing of children in these homes is looked after.
Abuse takes many forms against children, including emotional, sexual and physical. It can take place in school, at home, or in the community. There are a wide range of perpetrators, including parents, neighbors, teachers, children, and strangers.
Domestic violence, or family violence, generally refers to the physical assault of children and women. This is generally carried out by a male relative, such as a father/husband, or boyfriend. The man is using violence as a means to control his children and his partner. He believes that it’s a male prerogative, something that he has no control over. Or, he may believe that his family is to blame for his behavior. Women can also be guilty of family violence, however, it’s unusual for violent women to show violence on the same scale as violent men have.
Child sex offenders use deliberate tactics to select their victims, and engage them in abuse. This is known as the grooming process. Offenders often identify vulnerable children, such as those in need, unhappy, or less likely to tell someone about the abuse.
Sexual violence is a serious problem, and it has devastating consequences. The challenge we face in making our society safer includes, an understanding of the offense risk and patterns, as well as resources. It is this knowledge that can inform our decisions on reporting, investigation, sentencing, and more.
All too often, cases of child abuse or neglect go unaddressed. Victims of abuse, especially children, will seldom report their abuser to authorities. This can be due to many different reasons, but the bottom line is that it’s simply not reasonable to expect an abused or neglected child to be their own advocate. It is for this reason that many adults who work in a position that may allow them to help advocate for the child are tasked with being mandated reporters.