Browsing Tag

Abuse

Health and Safety

Protecting Your Teen from Dating Violence

One in 10 teenagers will experience some sort of abuse by a dating partner, according to the Children’s Safety Network. Negative short-term or long-term health issues can result from abusive relationships. Parents should be cognizant of potential warning signs in their teenage kids’ relationships to help prevent abuse.

Dating violence manifests in many different forms, including emotional, physical and sexual abuse. Emotional abuse can be hard to recognize because it typically progresses gradually throughout the relationship. Emotional abuse can include intimidation, manipulation, intense jealousy, threats, controlling behavior, verbal assault and gaslighting. Gaslighting is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as “presenting false information to the victim with the intent of making them doubt their own memory and perception.” Physical abuse is any means of physical harm, including hitting, kicking or punching. Sexual abuse involves forcing a partner to engage in any type of sexual experience without consent.

The director of the Children’s Hospital Intervention and Prevention Services (CHIPS Center) at Children’s of Alabama, Debra Schneider, is an expert on teen dating violence (TDV). “If the perpetrator is more interested in controlling you,” Schneider said, “then that is a big red flag.”

The victim in an abusive relationship is likely to experience adverse health issues during the relationship or develop health issues later on from the traumatic experience. If the relationship is physically violent, long-term injuries or even death could result. Teens in an abusive relationship have an increased risk of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, antisocial behaviors, eating disorders, negative body image, sexually transmitted diseases, trust issues, emotional triggers, lying, stealing, cheating and lack of discernment when picking appropriate partners in adulthood. 

In order to protect their children from teen dating violence, parents should know what to be aware of when their child is in a relationship.

Warning signs parents should be mindful of:

  • Secrecy or withdrawal from friends and family
  • Onset of anxiety and/or depression
  • Physical findings (bruises, cuts, headaches, back pain)
  • Only spending time with partner
  • Feeling excessive guilt or shame
  • Avoidance of school or social events with excuses that don’t seem to make any sense

Schneider wants parents to know how they can reduce the occurrence of TDV and protect their teens.

“Open dialogue about physical and emotional boundaries in relationships should begin when children are young,” Schneider said. “Boundaries and respect are vital to pave the way toward healthy relationships in their teenage years. If parents are modeling a healthy relationship, that’s going to be what teens are used to and what they expect in their own relationships.”

If you observe any warning signs of an unhealthy or abusive relationship in your teen, talk to them about it. It is important to start a conversation with your child/teen and listen to them. Try to understand and validate their feelings in this situation. Your show of support will increase their trust and your teen will be more comfortable sharing information with you. This open conversation will be crucial in educating your teen about what should be expected in a healthy and safe relationship.  A teen who is being abused needs someone to hear and believe them and be reminded that abuse is never deserved.

Resources you or your teen can call if they are in an abusive relationship:

  • National Dating Abuse Helpline – call 1-866-331-9474 or log on to interactive website loveisrespect.org to receive immediate, confidential assistance
  • Birmingham Crisis Center – call 205-323-7777
  • Birmingham Rape Response – call 205-323-7273
  • CHIPS Center (Children’s Hospital Intervention and Prevention Services) – call 205-638-2751
  • RAINN (Rape Abuse and Incest National Network) – call 1-800-656-4673
  • If your teen is in immediate danger, call 911
Children's, Health and Safety

Parenting During a Pandemic

“During a pandemic, risk factors for child abuse and neglect like parental stress due to finances and instability increase,” said Deb Schneider, director of Children’s Hospital Intervention and Prevention Services (CHIPS) Center at Children’s of Alabama. Now that schools and childcare centers are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to make plans to keep kids busy at home. Advance planning and working together can help reduce stress in the household.

Parenting During a Pandemic

  • Establish a routine to help children cope with anxiety
  • Limit children’s access to news and social media related to the pandemic.
  • Never discipline a child when you are angry.
  • If you, the parent/caregiver, are experiencing stress and anxiety, take a break. Call a friend or family member.
  • Family activities like walking, playing card games and working puzzles help ease stress.
  • Give children access to art supplies and music as alternatives to screen time

Being away from friends, extended family and social activities can be hard on teens and kids. To help them stay connected,  set up FaceTime or Skype playdates or visits.

Recognizing and Reporting Abuse

While kids are currently out of school due to the COVID-19 pandemic,  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,” Schneider said. “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

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
•  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,i.e.  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

Supervision is important. Know where your children are. Make sure children know sexual abuse is never their fault and that they won’t be in any trouble if they tell.

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 counseling and preventive services are free. If you suspect a child has been or is being abused,   please contact your county Department of Human Resources or  call the CHIPS Center at Children’s by dialing 205-638-2751. For more information,  visit childrensal.org/CHIPS.