The month of April is nationally known as Child Abuse Prevention Month. Every year April is a time to recognize the importance of communities working together to strengthen families and to prevent child abuse and neglect. Children are one of the most vulnerable populations in our country because of their inability to advocate for themselves or to protect themselves from harm. Child abuse and neglect happens more frequently than many believe with most occurrences going unreported.
According to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data for federal fiscal year 2020 the following was found, which was a decrease from prior years:
• 3,145,000 children received a child protective services investigation response or alternative response;
• 76.1% of victims are neglected, 16.5% are physically abused, 9.4% are sexually abused, and 0.2% are sex trafficked;
• 1,750 victims died from abuse and neglect.
The sad reality is that many cases of child abuse and neglect go unreported every year. In a world where technology has taken over nearly every aspect of life including how school is being taught, how children are occupied, how friends and family keep in contact, and how important information is relayed; so, increases the avenues in which children can be abused and neglected. In 2020 alone there was a 36% increase in cases of technology facilitated sexual violence. Parents no longer only have to worry about those perpetrators that live around them but also perpetrators that may be in a nearby state or halfway across the world. Cyber criminals are especially prevalent in the US, and it is estimated that 1 in every 4 children is harassed online. Bullying no longer only applies to real life situations as most violence is not reported but recorded on cameras and posted to the internet then shared quicker than the blink of any eye. Rape culture is spread through memes, viral posts, and other websites. Nearly half of children ages 9-16 experience regular exposure to sexual images. Children are also being exposed to pornography at earlier ages due to its wide availability through simple apps such as YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat.
In 1997 Nelson Mandela said, “The true character of a society is revealed in how it treats its children.” Protecting children should not just be the parent’s duty but society’s duty. There are several ways that anyone in society can help to prevent child abuse and neglect:
• Know the signs and be able to recognize child abuse and neglect
• Advocate and support resources to help families and children.
• Support children in your life by being a good role model.
• Help raise awareness for child abuse and neglect.
• Document and report any suspicions of child abuse neglect to your local children services or law enforcement immediately.
To Report Child Abuse and Neglect in Shelby County, call Shelby County Job and Family Services at 937-498-4981.
The writer is an Intake and assessment supervisor with Shelby County Job and Family Services’ children services divison.