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What is Child Abuse?

Child abuse and neglect are difficult topics to discuss, but are prevalent issues in our country, in our state, and in our local community. According to Kansas Children’s Service League, there were over 64,000 reports of child abuse and neglect in Kansas during State Fiscal Year 2012.

There are many questions as to what constitutes child abuse, but the answer is actually quite simple. By definition, child abuse is any physical injury, physical neglect, emotional injury, or sexual act inflicted upon a child. It is important to take action immediately if you are a witness to these abuses. Not only is it in the best interest of the child’s health and well-being, but implementing effective policies and strategies to prevent child abuse and neglect can also save taxpayers more than $104 billion a year (according to Prevent Child Abuse America). If you are witness to or think you are witness to child abuse, then it is your responsibility to take action. Any concerned person can report suspicions of child abuse.

Find out more in our Education section

What are the signs of Child Abuse?

The first step in helping abused or neglected children is to recognize the signs. There are multiple indicators, including a child’s behavior, to identify the occurrence of child abuse. Behavioral signs have an important place in the decision-making process and provide important clues for potential reporters. The presence of a single behavioral indicator does not necessarily prove that child abuse or neglect is occurring, but a closer look into the situation may be warranted if these signs appear repeatedly or in a combination. Some of the signs that may alert you to the possibility of child abuse and neglect are:

  • Repeated occurrences of an indicator (view possible indicators here)
  • Presence of several behavioral and physical indicators (view possible indicators here)
  • Appearance of suspicious serious injury or death

If a child reports he or she is a victim of abuse or neglect, give reassurance that telling you about what happened is okay and safe. Here are some tips for talking to an abused child:

  • Avoid denial and remain calm. If you display denial or show shock or disapproval, a child may be afraid to continue and will shut down. Try to remain as calm and reassuring as possible.
  • Don’t press for details. Do not interrogate or ask leading questions. This may confuse the child and make it harder for them to continue their story. The child will need to tell the story in detail later to the investigators, so do not press for details now.
  • Reassure the child that he or she did nothing wrong. It takes a lot of bravery for a child to come forward about abuse. Reassure the child that you take what is said seriously, and that you are going to call for help.
  • Safety first. If you feel that your safety or the safety of the child would be threatened if you try to intervene, then leave it to the professionals. 
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