Protecting Children from Abuse

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and we all have a responsibility to protect those who may be vulnerable to maltreatment and advocate for their needs. Child maltreatment encompasses abuse that is: physical, emotional, sexual and/or involves neglect. The abuser tends to be a known relative or family friend–not a stranger. According to the CDC, Four-fifths (80.3%) of perpetrators were parents, 6.1 percent were relatives other than parents, and 4.2 percent were unmarried partners of parents. Unfortunately, child abuse is more common than we think, and happens in Muslim families too. In 2014, there were 702,000 victims of child abuse and neglect reported to child protective services with 1,580 children dying from abuse and neglect. Here are some tips for helping protect children from abuse:

1. Start talking to your children about what constitutes safe and unsafe touching as young as three years old. Encourage children to tell you right away if they are experiencing unsafe touching behavior.
2. Teach your children the anatomically correct terms for different parts of their body. Words such as “wee wee” or “treasure” are confusing to others who may need to assess an incident of abuse.
3.Use your best judgment with sleepovers. People often do not realize this, but sexual abuse can also occur with other children who are the same age. Some parents ban sleep overs altogether, while others limit sleepovers to select families that parents know extremely well.
4.Protect your children from witnessing violence or explicit sexual images on the internet through supervision, password protection locks, and child protection software/apps. Talk to your children about what to do if a friend tries to show them inappropriate material and what steps to take.
5.Encourage children to notify a trusted adult if they hear or witness another child being abused. Help your child identify caring adults, such as a counselor, teacher or extended family member who can provide support.
6. If you have a reasonable cause to suspect that a child is being abused, it is important to report it. You have the option to remain anonymous and you will be protected from retaliation (as long as the report was done with good will). Contact the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).

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