It Shouldn't Hurt to Be a Kid
It shouldn't hurt to be a kid, but children continue to be hurt every day. For these youngsters there is no hope unless each one of us realizes that our most important duty is the protection, welfare, and growth of our children.
Child abuse can leave a scar that is carried throughout life. In fact, statistics show that the abused child all too often grows up to be an abuser. Studies suggest that 85 percent of convicted felons were abused as children. Breaking the cycle of abuse will not only protect our children, but will reduce crime now and in the future.
Without individual and community concern and involvement, there are really three "victims" of child abuse: the child, the abuser, and the community. Each of us can make a valuable contribution to the protection of children and the prevention of abuse. Our concern and involvement are critical - it may save a life.
What Is Child Abuse?
Child abuse is legally defined as:
- A physical injury which is inflicted by other than accidental means on a child by another person.
- Sexual abuse, including both sexual assault and sexual exploitation.
- Willful cruelty or unjustifiable punishment of a child.
- Cruel or inhuman corporal punishment or injury.
- Neglect, including both severe and general neglect.
- Abuse (all of the above) in out-of-home care.
Indicators Of Child Abuse
Below are some indicators of child abuse that can help you recognize an existing or potential problem.
Physical abuse is any act that results in a non-accidental physical injury.
Indicators of physical abuse:
- Bruises, burns, abrasions, lacerations, or swelling caused by other than accidental means.
- Belt buckle marks, handprints, bite marks, and pinches.
- Child states injury was caused by abuse.
- Injury unusual for a specific age group.
- A history of previous or recurrent injuries.
- Unexplained injuries; conflicting explanations or reasons for injury.
- Child excessively passive, compliant, or fearful.
- Caretaker attempts to hide injuries.
Neglect is essentially the negligent treatment or maltreatment of a child by a parent or caretaker under circumstances indicating harm or threatened harm to the child's health or welfare.
Indicators of neglect:
- Child lacking adequate medical or dental care.
- Child is always sleepy or hungry.
- Child is always dirty or inadequately dressed for weather conditions.
- There is evidence of poor supervision.
- Conditions in home are extremely or persistently unsafe or unsanitary.
Sexual abuse is defined as acts of sexual assault on, and the sexual exploitation of, minors.
Indicators of sexual abuse:
- Child reports sexual activities to a trusted person.
- Detailed and age-inappropriate understanding of sexual behavior (especially by younger children).
- Child wears torn, stained, or bloody underclothing.
- Child is victim of other forms of abuse.
The law requires certain professionals to report suspicion and/or knowledge of child abuse, which includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, and cases of severe emotional abuse that constitute willful cruelty or unjustifiable punishment of a child. Community members also play an important role in protecting children from abuse and neglect. The life of a child may be saved if YOU become involved and report cases of suspected child abuse.
Involvement does not mean physical intervention or snooping on your neighbor. It simply means not ignoring the obvious. Fear of involvement has resulted in family tragedies in which neighbors reported they knew what was going on, but declined to get involved.
If a member of the community, who is not required by law to report, does not want to identify him or herself, the report may be made anonymously.
After Your Report
Many people are under the misconception that if a family is reported for child abuse, the parent will always be arrested and the child will be taken away from the family. Although this may occur in serious abuse cases, the family is usually referred to services such as counseling or parenting classes. In neglect cases, the family may be referred to public assistance agencies. However, the goal of child protective agencies is to try to keep the family unit intact unless the child is in danger. The goal of all of us is to protect our children and help them grow up healthy and happy.
To report suspected child abuse, contact your local:
- Police or Sheriff's Department;
- County Welfare Department; or
- County Juvenile Probation Department
- Child Abuse Council
For further information on this program and other crime prevention material, write to:
Crime and Violence Prevention Center
Office of the Attorney General
P.O. Box 944255, Sacramento, CA 94244-2550
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics reveal that approximately 90% of child safety seats are installed or used incorrectly.
The California Highway Patrol (CHP) can help you fit your seat and install them properly. Safety seat installation is done by appointment and you can find your local CHP Office by visiting the CHP's website at: http://www.chp.ca.gov/. The officer will inspect your child's safety seat for any problems, check for recalls, show you how to properly install it in your vehicle, go over correct usage, and cover basic child seat safety information with you.
For answers to your child safety seat questions you can also contact the California Department of Public Health at www.cdph.ca.gov/vosp or your local health department.
Bullies don't go away when elementary school ends; bullying actually peaks in junior high. It continues through high school and even into the workplace. It can lead to serious problems and dangerous situations for both the victim and the bully.
Bullying is repeated and uncalled-for aggressive behavior, or quite simply, unprovoked meanness. It's a form of intimidation, which means behavior designed to threaten, frighten, or get someone to do something they wouldn't necessarily do. Bullies have learned that bullying works. They do it to feel powerful and in control. There are things you can do to deal with the situation, without making things worse.
* Bullies keep bullying as long as it works - as long as it makes them feel more powerful.
* Many children and teens are bullies or victims of bullies, but the largest number of children and teens are bystanders - witnesses to bullying.
* Eight percent of urban junior and senior high students miss one day of school each month because of fear.
* Bullying takes lots of forms: it can be physical or verbal, and range from mild to severe.
* One in four children who are bullies will have a criminal record before the age of 30.
* Girls can be bullies too, although bullying by girls is more likely to show up as spreading rumors, leaving people out of social events, teasing about clothes or boyfriends, or threatening to withdraw friendship. However, this doesn't mean that girls don't use physical intimidation to bully.
* Although much bullying happens where adults can't see or hear it, it also happens when adults are present. Too often, adults don't do anything to stop the bullying.
Anyone can be the target of bullying; however, most victims are often less - or feel less - powerful than the bullies. A typical victim is likely to be shy, sensitive, and perhaps anxious or insecure. Some teens are picked on for physical reasons, such as being overweight or smaller than their peers, wearing different or 'weird" clothing, having a physical disability, or belonging to a different race or religious belief.
Some bullies are outgoing, aggressive, active, and expressive. They get their way by brute force or openly harassing someone. They may carry a weapon. This type of bully rejects rules and regulations and needs to rebel to achieve a feeling of being better than everyone else.
The Smooth Talkers
Other bullies are more reserved and tricky, and may not want to be recognized as harassers or tormentors. They try to control by talking, saying the right thing at the right time, and lying. This type of bully gets his or her power secretively through manipulation and deception.
As different as these two types may seem, all bullies have these characteristics in common:
- * Concern with their own pleasure.
- * Want power over others.
- * Willingness to use and abuse other people to get what they want.
- * Feel pain inside, perhaps because of their own shortcomings.
- * Find it difficult to see things from someone else's perspective.
If You Are the Victim
No one solution works well in every situation, but there are a variety of strategies you can try.
- * Avoid or ignore the bully.
- * Hang out with friends; there is safety in numbers.
- * Say no to a bully's demands from the start. If the bully threatens you with a weapon, give in to the demands and immediately tell an adult.
- * Tell the bully assertively to stop threatening you (for example, "I don't like what you're doing - stop it!" or, "Get a life - leave me alone.")
- * Do not physically fight back. Experience shows that this actually increases the likelihood of continued victimization.
- * Seek immediate help from an adult.
- * Report bullying to school personnel.
- * If your safety is at stake, walk away or run if you need to.
Stop the Bullying
It's everyone's responsibility to stop bullying. And don't be afraid to get help when necessary. It takes courage, but you will be preventing the intimidation from continuing and possibly escalating. You can report the problem to authorities anonymously.
- * Refuse to participate in taunting and teasing.
- * Treat others the way you would like to be treated.
- * Tell adults if you witness cruelty or hear about violence that might occur.
- * Walk away from fights.
- * Speak out against the bully.
- * Stand tall and walk with confidence and in a way that commands respect.
- * Hang out with friends who don't get involved in bullying.
- * Stand up for others who are being intimidated.
- * Include the person who is being bullied in your activities.
- * Show compassion for the victim.
* Work with the school administration and get students together to develop or revise your school's code of conduct.
* Start a bully education program for the local elementary school - consider a puppet show or skit that teaches kids about bullying.
* Organize a teen panel or discussion group to talk about the issues of bullying and intimidation at your school.
- Polly Klaas: http://www.pollyklaas.org/safe/
- Polly Klaas Child Safety Kit Information: https://secure.pollyklaasaction.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=130
- Missing Kids.com, Child Safety Information: http://www.missingkids.com/missingkids/servlet/PageServlet?LanguageCountry=en_US&PageId=713
- Missing Kids.com, Child Safety Information: http://www.missingkids.com/missingkids/servlet/PageServlet?LanguageCountry=en_US&PageId=3342
- Megan's Law: http://www.meganslaw.ca.gov