Everyone knows one kid—that one kid who “fell through the cracks” or “just didn’t stand a chance.” As you sit reading this, can you picture their face? Most everyone knows someone who needed to be saved and who never was.
Maybe it began with falling behind in school or a failure to show up. Maybe the child you knew was a little dirty and unkempt. Can you remember a time when it escalated to aggression or struggle to make friends? Maybe a young girl who started getting a little too worried about her body or a boy who inexplicably grew aggressive. Can you think of just one?
Eventually, the drugs started, right? Then the real trouble began.
Did you know that every one of these behaviors is a sign of child abuse? If you could go back, do you think you would notice the signs?
Idaho Statistics on Child Abuse
April is National Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month. In January 2021, the Idaho State Legislature reported that incidents of child sexual abuse in Idaho increased by 17%, with a total of 272 cases in Ada and Canyon Counties alone. That same report showed 83 cases in Kootenai County, 53 cases in Bonneville County, 67 cases in Bannock County, 65 cases in Twin Falls County, and 64 cases in Bonner County.
According to the FBI Crimes Against Children Unit, for every reported case of child abuse in the United States, there are two more that go unreported. That means that approximately 1 out of 5 Idaho students is a victim of abuse. This number is consistent with national averages.
Still, numbers can’t convey the horror of a real monster sneaking into a child's bedroom (1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually molested by 17 according to the FBI Crimes Against Children) or an eldest child protecting their siblings from an abuser. To the victims, it doesn’t matter that thousands are facing the same monster. They don’t know the Boogie Man comes to their classmates as well. For the victims, there is no safe place. The adults who should protect them are all too often the ones who hurt them. For the victims of child abuse, they are alone. They are afraid. Without help, they might grow to be a Boogie Man, too.
The Lasting Effects of Childhood Trauma
Childhood trauma has complex, long-term impacts that affect the health and wellbeing of the child as they grow up. Trauma that stems from abuse can cause issues during and after childhood, with PTSD, substance abuse, problems at school, and more affecting them throughout their lifetime.
Child abuse takes many forms including neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation, and emotional abuse, each of which are measured as part of the groundbreaking Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), study. The CDC and Kaiser Permanente have studied ACEs since they have proven in the late 1990s to have a negative lifelong physical, emotional, and mental health.
Idaho Resources for Child Abuse Prevention
At the Idaho Youth Ranch, we help stop child abuse by stopping the cycle and healing the suffering. We invite you to learn more about child abuse, how to recognize it, and how to be a voice in stopping it. When we help heal a victim of abuse, we are putting a stop to a generational cycle.
How can you help?
It is important to know the signs of child abuse so that you can recognize a cry for help when you see it.
- Fear and anxiety are common behaviors from kids who are abused. For example, a child who seems afraid to go home or those who worry about letting down a parent or seem afraid to disobey.
- Aggression is also a common behavior for kids suffering abuse or neglect. It is for this reason that boys who experience abuse are twice as likely to abuse their partners and children as an adult.
- Sudden changes in school performance are a strong indicator at the onset of child abuse.
- Particularly in girls, eating habits and sudden weight loss are signs of abuse as well. Female child abuse victims are likely to develop eating disorders in their teens.
- Visible, frequent bruising is a strong indicator, especially around the ears, neck, and torso areas. These are areas that are not as likely to sustain injury during normal child play or sports.
- Trouble walking or sitting is a tragic determinant of child abuse.
If you suspect child abuse is going on, please reach out immediately to the Department of Health and Welfare. This is not about being polite. These kids do not have a voice and need your protection. 1-855-522-5437.