Last week, the Maine Senate passed a resolution recognizing April 2019 as Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month. The resolution, sponsored by Sen. Marianne Moore, R-Calais, recognized the important role that communities play in preventing child abuse and neglect, and the need to raise awareness to ensure all children are raised in safe, nurturing environments. Given that it’s now April, I thought I’d share with you some ways we can help prevent abuse in our community.

Protecting children from abuse and neglect starts with recognizing the common signs. Prevent Child Abuse America (PCAA), one of the leading organizations working on this issue, has a lot of very good resources on how to spot child abuse. They say that child abuse is typically divided into four categories — physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse and emotional abuse — but these types of abuse rarely happen on their own. It’s more likely for a child to suffer from two or more different kinds of abuse.

PCAA lists some of the telltale signs of physical abuse:

Children suffering from physical abuse may have unexplained burns, bites, bruises, broken bones, or black eyes; fading bruises or other marks noticeable after an absence from school; an apparent fear of parents, adult caregivers or adults in general; or they may report an injury caused by a parent or another adult caregiver. Physically abusive parents or adult caregivers may offer conflicting, unconvincing or no explanation for a child’s injury; describe their child as “evil,” or in some other very negative way; or use harsh physical discipline with the child.

PCAA also lists some of the signs of neglect:

Children suffering from neglect may be frequently absent from school; beg or steal food or money from classmates; lack needed medical or dental care, immunizations or glasses; be consistently dirty and have severe body odor; lack sufficient clothing for the weather; abuse alcohol or other drugs; or state that there is no one at home to provide care. A neglectful parent or adult caregiver may appear indifferent to their child; be outwardly depressed or apathetic; behave irrationally or bizarrely; or abuse alcohol or drugs.

PCAA also lists some signs of sexual abuse:

Children suffering from sexual abuse may have difficulty walking or sitting; suddenly refuse to change for gym or to participate in physical activities; demonstrate bizarre, sophisticated or unusual sexual knowledge or behavior; become pregnant or contract a venereal disease; run away; or directly report sexual abuse by a parent or another adult caregiver. A sexually abusive parent or caregiver may be unduly protective of a child; severely limit a child’s contact with other children, especially of the opposite sex; be secretive and isolated; or describe marital difficulties involving family power struggles or sexual relations.

Finally, the PCAA lists some signs of emotional abuse:

Children suffering from emotional abuse may show extremes in behavior, such as overly compliant or demanding behavior, extreme passivity or aggression; be either inappropriately adult or inappropriately infantile; be delayed in physical or emotional development; have attempted suicide; or report a general lack of attachment to their parent. Emotionally abusive parents or adult caretakers may blame, belittle or berate their child regularly; seem unconcerned about their child and refuse to consider offers of help for their child’s school problems; or overtly reject their child.

None of these signs necessarily means that child abuse is happening. However, when these signs appear repeatedly or together, they should be reported. Maine Child and Family Services has a 24/7 hotline to report suspected child abuse or neglect: 1 (800) 452-1999.

Anyone may make a report, which can be made confidentially or anonymously. When making a report, you should have some information — the name of the family in question, their physical address and contact information, any information about their school or workplace and any other information you can provide.

Together we can stand vigilant against child abuse and neglect in our community.

If you have any questions, comments or concerns, feel free to reach my office at 287-1515 or [email protected] I work for you and you have a right to hold me accountable.

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