Children's, Health and Safety

April is National Child Abuse Awareness Month

By Rachel Olis

Child abuse is more than bruises and broken bones. While physical abuse might be most visible, other types of abuse, such as emotional abuse or child neglect, also leave deep, long lasting scars. Some signs of child abuse are subtler than others. Since April is National Child Abuse Awareness Month, the experts at Children’s of Alabama want to remind you of the importance of recognizing and reporting abuse of any kind.

“By learning common types of abuse and what you can do, you can make a huge difference in a child’s life,” says Deb Schneider, director of Children’s Hospital Intervention and Prevention Services, or the CHIPS Center at Children’s of Alabama. “The earlier abused children get help, the greater chance they have to heal from their abuse and not perpetuate the cycle.”

The four types of child abuse are:
• Physical Abuse
• Sexual Abuse
• Emotional Abuse
• Neglect

In Alabama, one in six kids are physically abused every year and as many as 25 percent of children will be sexually abused by the time they reach age 18. Physical abuse is the leading cause of death under the age of 3.

Neglect remains the highest reported form of abuse in our state.

The signs of child abuse vary depending on the type of abuse, but there are some common indicators:

Warning signs of emotional abuse in children:
• Excessively withdrawn, fearful or anxious about doing something wrong.
• Shows extremes in behavior (extremely compliant or extremely demanding; extremely passive or extremely aggressive).
• Doesn’t seem to be attached to the parent or caregiver.
• Acts either inappropriately adult (taking care of other children) or inappropriately infantile (rocking, thumb-sucking, tantrums).
Warning signs of physical abuse in children:
• Frequent injuries or unexplained bruises, welts, or cuts.
• Is always watchful and “on alert,” as if waiting for something bad to happen.
• Injuries appear to have a pattern such as marks from a hand or belt.
• Shies away from touch, flinches at sudden movements, or seems afraid to go home.
• Wears inappropriate clothing to cover up injuries, such as long-sleeved shirts on hot days.

Warning signs of neglect in children:
• Clothes are ill-fitting, filthy, or inappropriate for the weather.
• Hygiene is consistently bad (unbathed, matted and unwashed hair, noticeable body odor).
• Untreated illnesses and physical injuries.
• Is frequently unsupervised or left alone or allowed to play in unsafe situations and environments.
• Is frequently late or missing from school.

Warning signs of sexual abuse in children:
• Trouble walking or sitting.
• Displays knowledge or interest in sexual acts inappropriate to his or her age, or even seductive behavior.
• Makes strong efforts to avoid a specific person, without an obvious reason.
• Doesn’t want to change clothes in front of others or participate in physical activities.

Fortunately, help for Alabama’s abused children is available at The CHIPS Center. The CHIPS Center provides forensic medical evaluations, psychosocial assessments, play therapy, counseling for non-offending caregivers and other support services. All services are free, thanks to the generosity of the Alabama Forestry Association and Alabama Loggers Council, which donate approximately $250,000 to the clinic each year through Log-A-Load For Kids.

If you suspect a child has been or is being abused, it is imperative that you contact the Alabama Department of Human Resources, or you can call the CHIPS Center at Children’s by dialing 205.638.2751.
For more information on this and other children’s health and safety topics, visit

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