Children are suffering from a hidden epidemic of child abuse and neglect. Over 3 million reports of child abuse are made every year in the United States; however, those reports can include multiple children. In 2009, approximately 3.3 million child abuse reports and allegations were made involving an estimated 6 million children. Child abuse can take many forms and includes neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse and medical neglect. The repercussions of all types of abuse are life altering and lifelong.
- A report of child abuse is made every ten seconds.
- More than five children die every day as a result of child abuse.
- Approximately 80% of children that die from abuse are under the age of 4.
- It is estimated that between 50-60% of child fatalities due to maltreatment are not recorded as such on death certificates.
- More than 90% of juvenile sexual abuse victims know their perpetrator in some way.
- Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education.
- Abused children are 25% more likely to experience teen pregnancy.
- Abused teens are less likely to practice safe sex, putting them at greater risk for STDs.
- About 30% of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children, continuing the horrible cycle of abuse.
- About 80% of 21 year olds that were abused as children met criteria for at least one psychological disorder.
As a PTA, what can we do to make a difference in this staggering problem of child abuse? Our goal should be to prevent child abuse before it occurs. Although recognition and treatment are important, prevention is the best way to combat this epidemic. Heightening the awareness of the problem is an important first step in the fight against this epidemic.
As a PTA leader, you have the ability to make a difference in the lives of the children and families around you. Educate yourself about the problem and the resources around you. There are many types of programs that strive to prevent abuse. Support and education for new as well as older parents, early and regular child and family screenings and treatment, and general family support all can contribute to preventing abuse.
As a PTA, we can do our part to provide information, education and family support through our programs at the local, state and national level. We can also advocate for laws and policies that strengthen the family and work to prevent and treat child abuse. PTAs can collaborate with other organizations that specialize in the prevention of child abuse and connect the families in our schools with these organizations.
“Missouri Kids First” offers these steps for helping to prevent child abuse. They can be found and printed out for your membership at http://www.missourikidsfirst.org/pcamo/Missouri%20Prevention%20Partners/five-steps-.pdf.
1. Care for Yourself
Learn more about how children grow and learn, and tips for parenting during each stage
of growth. Take time out for yourself so you have the inner strength to bounce back when things are hard. Seek support from family, friends and neighbors to help cope with the stress of everyday life.
2. Care for Children
Spend time listening, reading, talking and playing with a child. Teach good behavior by using good behavior yourself. Let children know they are loved.
3. Care for Others
Offer a helping hand to others who care for children and let them know everyone needs help from time to time. Provide emotional support to family, friends and neighbors caring for children.
4. Get Involved
Ask community leaders and businesses to make caring for children and families a priority. Register to vote and stay informed about local, state and national policies that impact children. Volunteer your time or donate to help children thrive.
Trust your instincts. If you believe a child has been or may be harmed, call the Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-392-3738 or 911 for law enforcement.
The PTA mission, to be “a powerful voice for all children, a relevant resource for all families and communities, and a strong advocate for the education and well-being of every child” should be our focus as we work together to prevent child abuse. Working together and with other organizations we will make a difference.