WHAT IS CHILD MALTREATMENT?
The U.S. federal government defines child maltreatment as
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.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF CHILD MALTREATMENT?
There are four types of child maltreatment legally recognized by all states:
- Physical Abuse
- Sexual Abuse
- Emotional Abuse
Other types of maltreatment recognized by some states and experts include Abandonment and Trafficking. Certain risk factors that have been strongly linked with maltreatment include Parental Substance Abuse and Religious or Cultural Beliefs and Practices.
WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON TYPES OF MALTREATMENT?
Of all the children who were reported to have been abused or neglected in 2013, nearly 80% were neglected, 18% were physically abused, and 9% were sexually abused. For more information about maltreatment statistics, go here.
WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF MALTREATMENT?
Child abuse and neglect has been linked to short and long-term effects from impaired brain development to juvenile delinquency to serious injury and death. Other problems include
- Developmental disabilities
- Socializing problems
- Poor school performance
- Depression and suicide attempts
- Substance abuse
- Teen pregnancy
- Adult criminality
For more information about the short and long term effects of maltreatment, visit this page.
HOW MANY CHILDREN ARE ABUSED OR NEGLECTED?
In 2013, an estimated 679,000 children were victims of abuse and neglect in the United States (9.1 victims per 1,000 children in the population). 1250 children were reported to have died from abuse or neglect. More than 27% of victims were younger than 3 years. Nearly 20% were aged 3 to 5 years. The victimization rate was highest for children under the age of 1 year. For more detailed information about reported maltreatment, go here.
HOW MANY CHILDREN DIE FROM ABUSE OR NEGLECT?
In 2013, an estimated 1,520 children died due to abuse or neglect. That means that more than an average of 4 children died from maltreatment each day. Of the children who died, more than 71% suffered neglect and 46.8% suffered physical abuse.
For more information about maltreatment-related child fatalities, click here.
WHO ARE THE PERPETRATORS OF CHILD MALTREATMENT?
In 2013, 51 states reported 515,507 individuals as having been responsible for child abuse or neglect. Of those perpetrators,
- 83% were between the ages of 18 and 44
- 53.9% were women
- 45% were men
- 49.3% were white
- 20.1% were African-American
- 19.5% were Hispanic
More than 91% of all victims were abused or neglected by one or both of their parents. For a more detailed breakdown of perpetrators and their relationship to victims, go here.
WHAT IS RELIGIOUS CHILD MALTREATMENT or RCM?
RCM is child abuse or neglect that is enabled by religious beliefs held by perpetrators, victims, or the surrounding community.*
HOW MANY CHILDREN ARE VICTIMS OF SEX AND LABOR TRAFFICKING?
From 2007 to 2012, there were 2,688 cases of human trafficking involving at least one child as reported to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. Of those, nearly 75% involved sex trafficking. Child trafficking can be involved in all kinds of legal and illegal businesses including prostitution, domestic work, hair salons, restaurant work, agricultural work, and drug sales.
In 2013, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children estimated that 1 in 7 endangered runaways reported to them were likely victims of sex trafficking.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE SIGNS OF MALTREATMENT?
In most cases, it’s important for a proper investigation to be conducted to verify that a child has indeed been abused or neglected. However, anyone can learn to recognize certain behaviors in children that could be indicators that they are victims. Some examples include
|Physical Abuse||• Unexplained bruises, burns, or welts• Child appears frightened of a parent or caregiver|
|Sexual Abuse||• Pain, bleeding, redness, or swelling in anal or genital area• Age-inappropriate sexual play with toys, self, or others• Age-inappropriate knowledge of sex|
|Emotional Abuse||• Extremes in behavior, ranging from overly aggressive to overly passive• Delayed physical, emotional, or intellectual development|
|Neglect||• Signs of malnutrition• Poor hygiene• Unattended physical or medical problems|
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I SUSPECT THAT A CHILD IS A VICTIM OF ABUSE OR NEGLECT?
If you know or have reasonable cause to believe or suspect that a child is being subjected to abuse or neglect, you should immediately report the abuse. Most states consider certain professionals to be mandated reporters, such as physicians, teachers, attorneys, and sometimes clergy; some states require that all adults who suspect maltreatment report it. You do not need to have proof that maltreatment is currently occurring to report it, just reasonable cause to believe that it is happening or has happened in the past. Often, you can report abuse or neglect anonymously.
There are a number of ways to report child abuse and neglect. You can call your state’s toll-free number or the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453). If you are witnessing possible abuse or neglect and need to alert authorities right away, call 9-1-1. A helpful link for what to do if you see or suspect that a child is being harmed can be found here.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I SUSPECT THAT A CHILD IS A VICTIM OF TRAFFICKING?
Call the NHTRC Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.
I’M A MEMBER OF A FAITH COMMUNITY. WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP?
- Encourage religious leaders to acknowledge publicly that child abuse and neglect is a major concern
- Adopt a child abuse prevention educational program that will teach leaders and congregations about maltreatment and reporting
- Support outreach programs that allow your faith community to partner with governmental agencies toward protecting children from maltreatment
To see a listing of child abuse prevention programs in your state, click here.
To read about child abuse and neglect that occurs in particular faith communities and religions, click here.
* Janet Heimlich, Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment (Prometheus Books, Amherst, New York, 2011), 29.