In our society, efforts to prevent crimes against children have not kept pace with the increasing vulnerability of our youngest citizens. The popular warning, "stay away from strangers," is not enough to prevent child abduction or exploitation. Many children are abducted or exploited by people with whom they have some type of familiarity, but who may or may not be known to parents. Often exploiters or abductors initiate a seemingly innocent contact with the victim. They may try to befriend the child. They use subtle approaches both parents and children should be aware of.
The U.S. Department of Justice released a study reporting that approximately one in three girls are sexually abused by age 18. Approximately one in six boys is sexually abused before age 16. In 1991, 206,235 children were physically abused in some way. Many crimes against children can be prevented. This brochure is about child protection.
Detecting Physical Abuse
Most abused children won’t volunteer the true cause of injuries if the abuser is a parent. When questioned, they usually concur with the parents' explanation of the injury.
Signs of Physical Abuse
- Injuries not appropriate for the child’s age and maturation level: Example: fractured skull or burns.
- Bruises or wounds in various stages of healing, implying repeated exposure to trauma.
- Physical evidence of malnutrition or water deprivation. Poor skin tone.
- Overt evidence of neglect of physical needs of young children. Diapers which are rarely changed; unclean hair and body; or ear, nose and fingernails which are never cleaned.
Detecting Sexual Abuse
Child molesting is often a repeat crime. Many children are victims a number of times. The reality of sexual exploitation is that the child may be very uncomfortable, confused, and unwilling to talk about the experience to parents. Children will talk if there is an atmosphere of trust and support in the home, where a child can feel free to talk without fear of accusation, blame, or guilt.
Signs Of Sexual Abuse
- Changes in behavior, extreme mood swings, withdrawal, fearfulness, and excessive crying.
- Bed-wetting, nightmares, fear of going to bed, or other sleep disturbances.
- Acting out inappropriate sexual activity or showing an unusual interest in sexual matters.
- A sudden acting out of feelings, aggressive, or rebellious behavior.
- Regression to infantile behavior.
- A fear of certain places, people, or activities, especially being alone with certain people.
- Pain, itching, bleeding, or rawness in private areas.
Safety Tips For Children
Children should be reminded of the following safety instruction:
- No one should ask you to keep a special secret. If he or she does, tell your parents or teacher.
- If someone wants to take your picture, tell your parents or teacher.
- No one should touch you in the parts of the body covered by the bathing suit, nor should you touch anyone else in those areas.
- Trust your feelings about what is right and wrong behavior.
- Never go in someone’s home without permission from parents.
- Never say you are alone when you’re on the phone.
- If someone is following you, you should go to a public place.
- Don’t walk alone.
- Never get into a car with someone.
- If separated while shopping, go to the nearest checkout counter and ask for help.
- Do not accept gifts or money from strangers.
- If someone tries to take you somewhere, quickly go away from him (her) and yell or scream "This person is not my father (or mother)."
Safety Tips For Parents
Your home should be a place of trust and comfort for your children. They should feel safe discussing fears and other sensitive matters. A good and healthy communication with your child can go a long way toward preventing child exploitation and abuse.
What You Can Do To Prevent Child Abduction and Exploitation
- Know where your children are at all times.
- Be sensitive to changes in your children’s behavior. They are a signal that you should sit down and talk to your children about what caused changes.
- Be alert to a teenager or adult who is paying an unusual amount of attention to your children or giving them inappropriate or expensive gifts.
- Teach your child to say no when they sense something is wrong.
- Be supportive and listen to children.
- Teach your children your home address and phone number.
- Be careful about baby-sitters and any other individuals who have custody of your children.