April – Child Abuse Awareness Month
I was present at the birth of my great-niece almost eight years ago. I was standing next to the crib where she was placed within seconds of entering the world. I watched wide-eyed in amazement at how the nurse cleaned her up, cleared out her nostrils, mouth and eyes. She was so little and dependent on everyone around her. This precious child of God will need food, clothing and shelter, I thought, and I knew her needs would be met by the loving family who waited for her arrival.
Under the veil of protection, some children do not receive the proper food, clothing and shelter they deserve. Some families do not realize children are a gift from God and so the children are mistreated as objects instead of humans.
My first encounter with child abuse was by reading the book A Child Called “It”: One Child’s Courage to Survive, written by Dave Pelzer about his own experience. Dave’s mother was mentally disturbed and an alcoholic. She mentally and physically abused him with tortuous games only she thought were amusing. Child abuse is often cyclical. Once abused, that person will abuse and that person will abuse, and so the ripple effect moves on. Dave was able to overcome and broke this chain of destruction in his family.
Some children are sexually abused. Usually the abused knows the abuser. Sexually abused children are threatened to remain silent and this silence may bring about behavioral changes. The following is taken from http://www.stopitnow.org/warning_signs_child_behavior April 9, 2011.
Behavior you may see in a child or adolescent
Has nightmares or other sleep problems without an explanation
Seems distracted or distant at odd times
Has a sudden change in eating habits
Refuses to eat
Loses or drastically increases appetite
Has trouble swallowing
Sudden mood swings: rage, fear, insecurity or withdrawal
Leaves “clues” that seem likely to provoke a discussion about sexual issues
Writes, draws, plays or dreams of sexual or frightening images
Develops new or unusual fear of certain people or places
Refuses to talk about a secret shared with an adult or older child
Talks about a new older friend
Suddenly has money, toys or other gifts without reason
Thinks of self or body as repulsive, dirty or bad
Exhibits adult-like sexual behaviors, language and knowledge
Signs more typical of younger children
An older child behaving like a younger child (such as bed-wetting or thumb sucking)
Has new words for private body parts
Resists removing clothes when appropriate times (bath, bed, toileting, diapering)
Asks other children to behave sexually or play sexual games
Mimics adult-like sexual behaviors with toys or stuffed animal
Wetting and soiling accidents unrelated to toilet training
Signs more typical in adolescents
Self-injury (cutting, burning)
Inadequate personal hygiene
Drug and alcohol abuse
Running away from home
Fear of intimacy or closeness
Compulsive eating or dieting
You cannot pick a child abuser out of a crowd, but you can pick up on the warning signs listed above. Reach out to a child or adolescent, they need you to be their silent voice.
I witnessed my beautiful great-niece coming into the world and I know she is a gift from God. I would do everything in my power to protect her and her siblings.
2 Thessalonians 3:2-3 (New International Version, ©2011)
And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith. But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.