Today, 175 children in Texas will be victims of physical, mental or sexual abuse, according to Children’s Advocacy Centers of Texas, Inc. But, that’s not just today. That’s 175 children every day, on average, across the state.
It’s Child Abuse Awareness Month. This issue seems far removed from us, either because we’re young adults or most of us don't have children. But, we’ve all been children. We all know children in our neighborhood, in our family or in our friendships. Yet, we still think, “That could never happen to me” or “That could never happen to someone I care about.”
The days of those thoughts are over. Instead, replace those thoughts and look for these signs, given by CACTX, in the children around you just in case:
Unexplained injuries. Ask how they got them.
Any change in emotional behavior, according to your child’s own regular emotions.
A return to less mature actions according to their own age and previous ability. For example, older children who suffer abuse may throw tantrums like an average toddler would.
Fear of going home. This is another time to ask questions.
Changes in eating and sleeping patterns can also be signs of abuse. The child doesn’t necessarily have to be eating or sleeping less, just any change from normal behavior is worth noting.
Any change in school performance or attendance, even any change in reaction to certain educational situations. Watch how they respond to typical classroom interactions.
A lack in personal hygiene that is also a sign of child abuse.
Risk-taking and/or inappropriate sexual behaviors by a child are signs of abuse as well. Any sort of strange behaviors, especially if they don't make sense regarding the child’s age, is a big sign to note.
Finally, and this is something I’ve grown to know, trust your gut. If there is any sign or a multitude of these signs with no logical explanation as to why from parents or from the child, call 1-800-252-5400 and report the case immediately.
There may be a child in your life who shows some of these signs, but you’re still not sure. In almost any case, it’s better to be safe than sorry, especially concerning the life of a child. For any case that may not need to be investigated right away, use CACTX's website to report suspicions of abuse.
As someone who is going into the field of education, at first, I believed what most do. I told myself, “It’s not that common,” or “It could never happen here in Nacogdoches.” But, it does. Be vigilant. Be the voice for the child who needs it most.