Editor’s note: April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. This is the final in a series of articles about child abuse that the Daily Progress published throughout the month of April.
“Child abuse is a very broad term for several terrible things that happen to innocent children in our country on a daily basis,” said Brandi Young with the Crisis Center of Anderson and Cherokee Counties. “Probably the most frequently heard of types of abuse are physical abuse and sexual abuse; however, most people probably still do not understand exactly what the two are.”
Young said not only are children who are physically abused hurt on the outside, but also on the inside.
“When we speak of physical abuse, I suppose a proper definition of it would have to be when a child is hurt on the outside, physically,” she said. “While this statement is completely true, there are many emotional barriers built that take just as much time or more to heal than the physical damage.
“There are many characteristics or warning signs to be aware of in the realm of physical abuse. Some warning signs to look for are frequent wounds, bruises, whelps, cuts or on occasion, a child may confess to abuse.”
She said along with the outward signs of physical abuse, emotional signs are exhibited by victims of abuse.
“Children who have been physically abused often present with other signs of abuse such as behavior problems, hyper-vigilence, and anxiety,” she said.
Young said she strives to make child victims of abuse understand that the abuse was not their fault in any way.
“Many times shame plays a large part in the feelings and emotions that a child feels after abuse as well,” Young said.
She said she teaches them how to relax and deal with the feelings they have in healthy ways like meditation, self monitoring, and knowing queues that their bodies present when they are dealing with these problems.
“If physical abuse is sustained for long periods of time, the presentation of post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms may be apparent,” Young said.
Like physical abuse, sexual abuse leaves scars on children — sometimes physically, but always emotionally, she said.
Also, she said sexual abuse does include someone touching a child in a sexual manner, but it can also include things like using crude or vulgar innuendo when talking to a child or forcing a child to watch pornography.
“Usually a child that has been sexually abused will begin acting out in a sexual manner or have an explicitly inappropriate relationship with an adult. If a child says his or her best friend is a 60-year-old man or woman there could be cause for concern,” Young said.
“If you have a child who has been abused, the parental role in counseling is huge. I feel confident in saying that if I could get positive parental support with all of my cases, the counseling process would be faster,” Young said.
Anyone with questions or who would like to speak to someone in regards to counseling services for an abused child can call the Crisis Center of Anderson and Cherokee Counties at 903-586-9118.