DEAR ABBY: Every year, more than 3 million reports of child abuse are made in the U.S. Without intervention, about 30 percent of those abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. Please ask your readers to learn about programs and activities in their communities that support parents and promote healthy families.
- John E. Thoresen, director, Barbara Sinatra Children's Center, Calif.
DEAR MR. THORESEN: Thank you for your letter. Readers, the first step to curbing child abuse is recognizing it. These are the 10 most common indicators:
1. Unexplained injuries: There may be unconvincing explanations for a child's injuries.
2. Changes in behavior: Abused children often appear scared, anxious, depressed, withdrawn or more aggressive.
3. Returning to earlier behavior: Abused children may display behaviors shown when they were younger, such as thumb-sucking, bed-wetting, fear of the dark or strangers. Loss of basic language or memory problems may occur.
4. Fear of going home: Abused children may express fear or anxiety about leaving school or going places with the abuser.
5. Changes in eating: Weight gain or weight loss may result.
6. Changes in sleep habits: The child may have frequent nightmares or difficulty falling asleep, and appear tired or fatigued.
7. Changes in school performance or attendance: Children may have difficulty concentrating in school or experience excessive absences, sometimes because of adults trying to hide the children's injuries from authorities.
8. Lack of personal care or hygiene: The child may appear unkempt, be consistently dirty and have severe body odor, or lack sufficient clothing for the weather.
9. Risk-taking behaviors: The child may engage in using drugs or alcohol, or carrying a weapon.
10. Inappropriate sexual behavior: A sexually abused child may exhibit overly sexualized behavior or use explicit sexual language.