ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --
As the global pandemic grows, child abuse experts’ concern for children’s safety is increasing.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp recently said that reports of child abuse have decreased, but child abuse experts are concerned that these children are sheltered in place with their abusers and away from those who would report such incidents.
“Child abusers are often close to their victims and many children are isolated with their abuser and cut off from trusted adults that they could normally turn to for help,” said Stuart Bapties, Violence Prevention integrator in Robins’ Integrated Resilience and Prevention Office. “Child advocates across the nation feel that we may be in the calm before the storm, when children once again come in contact with adults that will notice the signs and report.”
For people to report child abuse, Bapties said they must first know how to define the various types of abuse and recognize the signs.
Federal laws set the stage for states to define child maltreatment, identifying a number of set behaviors and actions that define child abuse and neglect.
The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act amended and reauthorized by the CAPTA Reauthorization Act of 2010, defines child abuse and neglect as, at a minimum, “any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation, or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.”
Additionally, the CAPTA states that “a child shall be considered a victim of ‘child abuse and neglect’ and of ‘sexual abuse’ if the child is identified, by a state or local agency employee of the state or locality involved, as being a victim of sex trafficking.”
Bapties said within CAPTA’s minimum standards, each state has its own definition of neglect and abuse.
“Most states recognize four major types of maltreatment: physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse,” he said. “Additionally, many states identify abandonment, parental substance use, and human trafficking as abuse or neglect.”
Child abuse and neglect can have lifelong implications for victims, including their well-being, Bapties said.
“While the physical wounds may heal, there are many long-term consequences of experiencing the trauma of abuse or neglect,” he said. “Children who are maltreated may be at risk of experiencing cognitive delays and emotional difficulties, among other issues, which can affect many aspects of their lives, including their academic outcomes and social skills development. Experiencing childhood maltreatment is also a risk factor for depression, anxiet, and other psychiatric disorders.”
Bapties said it’s important to recognize the signs of maltreatment.
“If you suspect a child is being harmed, reporting your suspicions may protect him or her and help the family receive assistance,” he said. “Any concerned person can report suspicions of child abuse or neglect. Reporting your concerns is not making an accusation; rather, it is a request for an investigation and assessment to determine if help is needed.”
a. Has unexplained injuries, such as burns, bites, bruises, broken bones, or black eyes
b. Has fading bruises or other noticeable marks after an absence from school
c. Seems scared, anxious, depressed, withdrawn, or aggressive
d. Seems frightened of his or her parents and protests or cries when it is time to go home
e. Shrinks at the approach of adults
f. Shows changes in eating and sleeping habits
g. Reports injury by a parent or another adult caregiver
h. Abuses animals or pets
a. Has difficulty walking or sitting
b. Experiences bleeding, bruising, or swelling in their private parts
c. Suddenly refuses to go to school
d. Reports nightmares or bedwetting
e. Experiences a sudden change in appetite
f. Demonstrates bizarre, sophisticated, or unusual sexual knowledge or behavior
g. Becomes pregnant or contracts a sexually transmitted disease, particularly if under age 14
h. Runs away
i. Reports sexual abuse by a parent or another adult caregiver
j. Attaches very quickly to strangers or new adults in their environment
a. Shows extremes in behavior, such as being overly compliant or demanding, extremely passive, or aggressive
b. Is either inappropriately adult (e.g., parenting other children) or inappropriately infantile (e.g., c. frequently rocking or head-banging)
c. Is delayed in physical or emotional development
d. Shows signs of depression or suicidal thoughts
e. Reports an inability to develop emotional bonds with others
People throughout Georgia can report suspected cases of child abuse and neglect to the Georgia Child Protective Services’ hotline at 1-855-GA-CHILD or (855) 422-4453.
Bapties said it’s important that people know where to turn when they need help.
“Right now Robins is ensuring that we are continuing to highlight resources that are available throughout the community to provide resources to families that may be struggling during the current crisis,” he said. “Those resources cover everything from financial assistance with paying bills and keeping the utilities on to resources that help alleviate food insecurities while providing parents with assistance on where to get help with home schooling and suggestions for how to stay connected and build healthy relationships.”
Robins’ Family Advocacy Program is available for intimate partner and family violence help Monday - Friday 7:30 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. by calling (478) 327-8398. After hours, they can be reached by calling the Command Post at (478) 327-2612.
Bapties said helping agencies are also ensuring that the base community knows what counseling and mental health resources are available, often for free.
“We are providing our supervisors with tools to help connect and check up on employees and their families that are both working from home and in person,” he said. “These resources are readily available on the Robins Integrated Resilience and Prevention Office Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/resprev/, and they are constantly being updated to reflect the most current information.”
There are several places to turn to on base if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
The Military and Family Life Counseling Program supports service members, families and survivors with non-medical counseling and can be reached by calling (478) 501-0730.
Military OneSource call centers are available 24/7/365 for personalized support and can be reached at 1-800-342-9647.
Civilian employees and their family members who are feeling overwhelmed can contact our Employee Assistance Program 24/7/365 by calling 1-866-580-9078.
Terms to know:
- Physical abuse is a physical injury to a child caused by a parent, caregiver or other person responsible for a child. Physical discipline, such as spanking or paddling, is not considered abuse as long as it is reasonable and causes no bodily injury to the child. Injuries from physical abuse could range from minor bruises to severe fractures or death.
- Sexual abuse includes activities by a parent or other caregiver such as fondling a child’s genitals, penetration, incest, rape, sodomy, indecent exposure, and exploitation through prostitution or the production of pornographic materials.
- Neglect is the failure of a parent or other caregiver to provide for a child’s basic needs. Neglect generally includes the following categories: Physical (failure to provide necessary food or shelter, lack of appropriate supervision), Medical (failure to provide necessary medical or mental health treatment, withholding medically indicated treatment from children with life-threatening conditions), Educational (failure to educate a child or attend to special education needs), and Emotional (inattention to a child’s emotional needs, failure to provide psychological care, permitting a child to use alcohol or other drugs).
- Emotional abuse (or psychological abuse) is a pattern of behavior that impairs a child’s emotional development or sense of self-worth. This may include constant criticism, threats, or rejection as well as withholding love, support or guidance.