We All Can Prevent Child Abuse

Working as part of a Pediatric Trauma Service, there are many days where we encounter tragic accidents and injuries, which can be devastating and heartbreaking for both the children and their families. However, the sadness of this is often tempered by the “success” stories where our patients overcome seemingly incredible odds and go back to their lives as happy, energetic children. As part of our program we look at ways to help keep children safe and prevent unnecessary accidents and injury. We often discuss ideas such as bike helmets, seatbelts and car seats. These ideas are well publicized and openly discussed. However, there is a more “silent” and perhaps taboo topic related to protecting our children—the prevention of purposefully inflicted trauma and abuse upon children.

In honor of April being the National Child Abuse Prevention month, our Injury Prevention Specialist Hannah Mathena has prepared some information the share on the topic.

Child maltreatment can occur in many different forms including: physical abuse, psychological abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect. According to the CDC, a report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds to child protective services agencies. Additionally, more than five children die every day as a result of child abuse. In Marion County, the child abuse and neglect rate has risen from 14.2 children for every 1000 in 2005 to 21.7 children for every 1000 in 2010.

We live this number here at Riley every day, and it is truly a devastating statistic. These injuries and deaths can be prevented.  Parents, family, friends, and the community at large must find ways to work together in order to eliminate child abuse. It is important to know how to prevent child abuse and what to do if child abuse or neglect is suspected.

Prevention Tips - Preventing child abuse is possible, and everyone can play an important role in helping prevent child abuse in their communities.

  • Build a support network for parents to help handle the stress of being a parent
  • Remember to take time for yourself to handle life’s stresses
  • Know what to do if your baby won’t stop crying. Never shake a baby.
  • Promote Child Abuse programs at schools and libraries
  • Get involved in local community organizations
  • Report any suspected abuse or neglect

Know the Signs - At times, the signs of child abuse can be quite obvious like a broken bone.  However, not every case of child abuse will have the same results, so it is important to recognize the signs and know what to do.

  • Child shows sudden changes in behavior or school performance
  • Unexplained injuries (including but not limited to bruises, burns, or bites) or faded injuries after an absence from school
  • Child avoids adults or appears scared by approaching adults
  • Nightmares or other signs of distress
  • Unusual behavior (e.g. overly compliant, an overachiever, or too responsible for the age)

What To Do - Indiana law requires that anyone who suspect child abuse to file a report. Each case will be investigated to determine if abuse is occurring.

  • If there is immediate danger, call 911
  • Contact your local Child Protective Services agency
  • Call the Indiana Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-800-800-5556


Center for Disease Control, Injury Prevetention and Control. (2012). Child maltreatment: Facts at a glance. Retrieved from website: http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d11599.pdf
  US Government Accountability Office, (2011). Child maltreatment: strengthening national data on child fatalities could aid in prevention (GAO-11-599). Retrieved from website: http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d11599.pdf
  Indiana State Department of Health, Indiana Youth Institute. (2012). The state of the young hoosier child. Retrieved from website: http://www.in.gov/isdh/reports/SYHC/IYI-Data-Sunny-Start-Indiana-2012.pdf
  Prevent Child Abuse America. (n.d.). Ten ways to help prevent child abuse (2013).  Retrieved from http://s391189474.onlinehome.us/images/docs/tenwaystohelppreventchildabuse.pdf
  Prevent Child Abuse America. (n.d.). Recognizing child abuse: What parents should know. (2013). Retrieved from http://s391189474.onlinehome.us/images/docs/recognizingchildabuse-whatparentsshouldknow.pdf

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