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. More specific definitions of types of maltreatment can be found here. To see a listing of state-by-state definitions, click here.
WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON TYPES OF MALTREATMENT?
In 2015, the greatest percentages of children suffered from neglect (75.3%) and physical abuse (17.2%). A child may have suffered from multiple forms of maltreatment. (A victim who suffered more than one type of maltreatment was counted only once per type.) 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 2015, approximately 684,000 children were reported to have been victims of child abuse or neglect. That’s 9.2 victims per 1,000 children in the population. For more detailed information about reported maltreatment, go here. To see child maltreatment statistics by state, go here.
HOW MANY CHILDREN DIE FROM ABUSE OR NEGLECT?
In 2015, at least 1,585 children died due to abuse or neglect which translates to 2.25 deaths from 100,000 children. For more information about maltreatment-related child fatalities, click 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. The impacts of this maltreatment are serious and long-term; for some, they are fatal. Religious child maltreatment can occur in any faith or community, and it’s important to understand which children are at risk. For more information on RCM, go here. To review statistics on RCM, go here.
HOW MANY CHILDREN ARE VICTIMS OF TRAFFICKING?
From 2007 to 2017, there were 1,438 reported cases of human trafficking involving at least one child as reported to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. 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 2017, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children responded to 10,093 cases of possible child sex trafficking.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE SIGNS OF CHILD 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 AM THE VICTIM OF ABUSE OR NEGLECT OR I SUSPECT THAT A CHILD IS BEING HARMED?
If you know or have reasonable cause to believe or suspect that a child is being subjected to abuse or neglect, or if you yourself are being victimized, you should immediately report the abuse. 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 the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453). Go here to find the phone number of your local Child Protective Services agency. If you are witnessing possible abuse or neglect and need to alert authorities right away, call 9-1-1.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I SUSPECT THAT A CHILD IS A VICTIM OF TRAFFICKING?
Call the NHTRC Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.
WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP RAISE AWARENESS OF RELIGIOUS CHILD MALTREATMENT IN MY OWN FAITH COMMUNITY?
- Encourage religious leaders to acknowledge publicly that child abuse and neglect is a serious concern.
- Adopt a child abuse prevention educational program that teaches 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 learn about the Child-Friendly Faith Project’s Designation Program, a self-guided discussion series, please go here.