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Stopping Child Abuse    -    One Child at a Time

Child Abuse Information

HOW IS CHILD ABUSE DEFINED?  (Taken from Texas Family Code)



Sec. 261.001.  DEFINITIONS.  In this chapter:

(1)  "Abuse" includes the following acts or omissions by a person:

(A)  mental or emotional injury to a child that results in an observable and material impairment in the child's growth, development, or psychological functioning;

(B)  causing or permitting the child to be in a situation in which the child sustains a mental or emotional injury that results in an observable and material impairment in the child's growth, development, or psychological functioning;

(C)  physical injury that results in substantial harm to the child, or the genuine threat of substantial harm from physical injury to the child, including an injury that is at variance with the history or explanation given and excluding an accident or reasonable discipline by a parent, guardian, or managing or possessory conservator that does not expose the child to a substantial risk of harm;

(D)  failure to make a reasonable effort to prevent an action by another person that results in physical injury that results in substantial harm to the child;

(E)  sexual conduct harmful to a child's mental, emotional, or physical welfare, including conduct that constitutes the offense of continuous sexual abuse of young child or children under Section 21.02, Penal Code, indecency with a child under Section 21.11, Penal Code, sexual assault under Section 22.011, Penal Code, or aggravated sexual assault under Section 22.021, Penal Code;

(F)  failure to make a reasonable effort to prevent sexual conduct harmful to a child;

(G)  compelling or encouraging the child to engage in sexual conduct as defined by Section 43.01, Penal Code;

(H)  causing, permitting, encouraging, engaging in, or allowing the photographing, filming, or depicting of the child if the person knew or should have known that the resulting photograph, film, or depiction of the child is obscene as defined by Section 43.21, Penal Code, or pornographic;

(I)  the current use by a person of a controlled substance as defined by Chapter 481, Health and Safety Code, in a manner or to the extent that the use results in physical, mental, or emotional injury to a child;

(J)  causing, expressly permitting, or encouraging a child to use a controlled substance as defined by Chapter 481, Health and Safety Code; or

(K)  causing, permitting, encouraging, engaging in, or allowing a sexual performance by a child as defined by Section 43.25, Penal Code.

A comprehensive overview of child abuse and its various elements.

Child abuse is generally divided into three major groups.  NEGLECT is usually defined as caregivers putting a child at risk of harm due to their careless or thoughtless practices in raising the child.  Neglect can range from not feeding a child appropriately or forcing them to wear filthy clothes and live in squalor.  Sometimes we hear stories of parents leaving their babies or toddlers in the car while they went shopping or were drinking in a bar.  Usually, neglect refers to a caregiver's practices taking the situation to the point where the child's well-being is in jeopardy.

PHYSICAL ABUSE is the next level of abuse and there is quite a bit of confusion and misunderstanding about that topic.  Most people think of this type of abuse as simply being parents losing control and "spanking" a child too hard, or in the chaos of the moment, hitting a child in a place other than his buttocks and leaving marks (or bruises).  However, physical abuse covers more territory than that.  Some children are bullied and terrorized by a parent or older sibling where they are consistently pushed, battered, hit or assaulted around the home on a regular basis.  Sometimes parents choose "spanking tools" like coat hangers, switches, electric cords, elaborate paddles, hair brushes or even bull whips to discipline their children.  Those scenes would look less like discipline and more like a terrorist attack if you could see the event occur and observe the child's terror-stricken face and hear the high-pitched screams.  Other parents or caregivers have been found to burn their children with cigarette butts or other hot objects in order to "make a point."  In such cases, it is not unusual for an abuser to use threats to insure the child doesn't tell anyone what happened.  Sometimes they convince the child that telling this secret would "break up the family" or "split you kids up to where you have to live with strangers."


CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE is typically any sexual act with a child performed by an adult or an older child, or in their presence.


Other forms of abuse can also occur that are not as easy to detect.  These include showing an adult's genitals to a child, showing the child pornographic or "dirty" pictures or videotapes, or using the child as a model to make pornographic materials.

Sexual abuse takes in a wide range of behaviors.  It can come in the form of one startling, even violent attack as seen in some rapes.  It can surface by surprise in a "dating scenario," or an offending pedophile can spend weeks, months, or even years "grooming" a potential child victim.   In some cases, parents or step-parents have told their children that the "sexual games" they play with each other are old and very private family traditions.  In still other cases, a single mother's boyfriend takes advantage of his position and finds moments where he has access to the children when the biological mother is working or away from the home.  In still others, the biological mother may know something is happening, but is reluctant to do anything because of the spouse's generous, much needed income.

Though child abuse takes so many forms, it always seems to have one thing in common.  Children get scarred from the experience, one way or the other.  That's not to say that sometimes, being resilient as they are, some children seem to move on and thrive in spite of the abuse.  That does happen.  More frequently, though, victims develop little fears or subtle phobias which they can carry into their adult lives.  Far too many develop a number of severe symptoms like those found in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  In the long run it is usually a good idea to have an abused child evaluated by an experienced counselor or therapist.


Boys and girls are abused in this way most often by adults or older children who are known to them and who can exert power over them.  The victim knows the offender in 8 out of 10 reported cases.  The offender is often an authority figure whom the child trusts or loves.  Once the child has been "groomed," the offender persuades, bribes, tricks, or otherwise coerces the child to engage in sexual intercourse or other sexual acts.  Though these scenarios are common, they are not the only ones seen in the field.


Any parent would hope that their son or daughter would tell someone if they were being abused.  Yet, children have frequently been convinced or threatened by the abuser that they must not tell anyone about it.  Some are threatened with violence against the family.  Understandably, a child's first statements about abuse may be vague and incomplete.  The child may just hint about the problem.  Sometimes abused children tell their friends about it, who then tell an adult.  A number of children tell about abuse after a personal safety program is held at their school.

The following may signal a reason to explore for possible sexual abuse in a child:

Physical signs of child sexual abuse may include sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea.  During an exam a pediatrician may also notice changes in the anal or genital areas.

If your child does reveal sexual abuse to you, the most important point is to take what your child says seriously.  Not surprising to most professionals, many children who report sexual abuse are not believed by the parent they tell.  When a child's plea for help is ignored, he may not risk telling again.  As a result, the child could remain a victim of abuse for months or years afterward.

* Listen to your child's explanation for disclosing the abuse, and don't be afraid to ask questions that will help clarify the story.


* Make sure you report the abuse and help your child to understand that the abuse is not his or her fault.


* Give lots of love, comfort, and reassurance.

If you are angry, make sure you let your child know you're not angry with him or her.  Let your child know that you appreciate the courage it took to tell you, and that you can help with any fear or confusion that might result from the experience.  This is most important if the child has been abused by a close relative or family friend.  Then, contact appropriate authorities and get help.  Talk to your child's pediatrician, a counselor, a police officer, or a child protective service worker.



Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

An Overview

Common Symptoms

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a natural emotional reaction to a deeply shocking and disturbing experience.  It is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation.


Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is defined in DSM-IV, the fourth edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.  For a doctor or medical professional to be able to make a diagnosis, the condition must be defined in DSM-IV or its international equivalent, the World Health Organization's ICD-10.


There is growing recognition (among professionals) that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can result from many types of emotionally shocking experiences, including an accumulation of small, individually non-life-threatening events in which case the resultant PTSD is referred to as Complex PTSD.


Examples of accumulative trauma inducing PTSD can include:

Where the symptoms are the result of a series of events, the term Complex PTSD (formerly referred to unofficially as Prolonged Duress Stress Disorder or PDSD) may be more appropriate.

Causes of PTSD

PTSD resulting from child abuse, accident, disaster, war, terrorism, torture, kidnapping, rape, etc., has been extensively studied and literature is available elsewhere.  The first written reference to PTSD symptoms comes from the sixth century BC, continued through world wars in the "modern eara" and is very thoroughly described in today's medical / psychological literature.

Common symptoms of PTSD and Complex PTSD that sufferers report experiencing

As you might gather from these symptoms, some sufferers think they are going crazy due to the weird, uncharacteristic symptoms they are experiencing.  The good news is they are not going crazy; PTSD is an injury, not an illness.  Those who suffer it have been wounded and should be treated as such.

Sometimes, the term "psychosis" is applied to mental illness, and the term "neurosis" to psychiatric injury.  The main difference is that a psychotic person is unaware they have a mental problem, whereas the neurotic person is aware - often acutely.


This is only an overview.  No two people react the same way to trauma, in spite of a number of common symptoms.  If there is reason to believe you are experiencing symptoms of PTSD, it is wise to consider professional help to evaluate your needs, and possibly get started on the road to recovery.  If possible, find someone who is experienced with sexual assault, abuse or related issues.


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