Do you suspect that your child has been touched inappropriately, physically or in a sexual way?
Do you feel your child has been affected by often seeing adults argue and/or fight with one another?
- What are child abuse and neglect?
- The United States government defines child maltreatment (including child abuse and neglect) as, "The physical and mental injury, sexual abuse, negligent treatment, or maltreatment of a child under the age of 18 by a person who is responsible for the child's welfare under circumstances which indicate that the child's health or welfare is harmed or threatened."1
- The state of Mississippi recognizes 4 main types of child maltreatment. These include: Physical abuse, Sexual abuse, Neglect, and Emotional/Verbal abuse.2
- Physical abuse occurs when any person responsible for the well-being and caretaking of a child contacts that child in a way that causes marks or injuries, including (but not limited to) broken bones, burns, or missing teeth.
- Sexual abuse occurs when any person responsible for the well-being and caretaking of a child inappropriately touches that child in a sexual manner. This may include (but is not limited to): touching a child's genitals, sexual penetration of a child, having a child perform or watch pornography, forcing a child to perform oral sex, forcing a child to engage in prostitution, masturbating in front of a child, or having sex in front of a child.
- Emotional/Verbal abuse occurs when any person responsible for the well-being and caretaking of a child says something hurtful to or threatens a child. This may include (but is not limited to): name-calling, making fun of a child, destroying things or hurting someone a child cares about, rejecting a child, and/or locking a child in a closet.
- Neglect occurs when any person responsible for the well-being and caretaking of a child does not fully take care of that child's needs. Neglect can come in several forms, including medical (not taking the child for necessary medical visits), supervision (leaving the child alone when he is not yet developmentally able to adequately care for himself), clothing/hygiene (not providing the child with proper clothing or sanitation), nutrition (not providing enough food to the child or not providing enough nutritional balance to the child), and shelter (keeping the child in inadequate and/or unsafe housing conditions).
- According to Section 43-21-105 of the Mississippi Code of 1972, Annotated:2
- "Abused Child means a child whose parent, guardian or custodian or any person responsible for his care or support, whether legally obligated to do so or not, has caused or allowed to be caused upon said child sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, emotional abuse, mental injury, non-accidental physical injury or other maltreatment. Provided, however, that physical discipline, including spanking, performed on a child by a parent, guardian or custodian in a reasonable manner shall not be deemed abuse under this section."
- Additionally, there is a special qualification for physical child abuse in the state of Mississippi which states that while parents, guardians & custodians are legally allowed to utilize corporal punishment, they are not allowed to cause bruises, marks, or other injuries to children when utilizing corporal punishment.2
- In other words, parents are allowed to utilize corporal punishment to discipline their children, but they are not allowed to leave marks or other injuries on their children when doing so.
- How common are child abuse and neglect?
- In a survey of 12- to 17-year-olds, 8% reported a lifetime sexual assault, 17% reported a lifetime physical assault, and 39% witnessed violence within their home and/or community3
- Approximately 3 million reports of child abuse were made to DHS nationwide in 2001 alone. Of these reports, 19% were for physical abuse and 10% were for sexual abuse. 4
- 1 in 11 adolescents reports being a victim of physical dating abuse.5
- 1 in 4 adolescents reports verbal, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse each year.6
- Victimization surveys in adults suggest that 8.5% of children in the U.S. have experienced severe childhood physical abuse & at least 8.1% have experienced a completed rape.7
- Exposure to one type of violence (e.g., Child physical abuse, child sexual abuse, witness domestic violence) increases the risk for additional violence exposure.8
- What can I do if I suspect that my child is being abused or neglected?
- It is important that you work very quickly to help your child or adolescent who you suspect may have been abused or neglected, because details and evidence may be lost if you wait a period of time past the suspected abuse or neglect incident. If you have questions of who to call when you suspect abuse or neglect, the following are options:
- Mississippi Child Abuse Hotline (free of charge): 1-800-222-8000
- Local Department of Human Services agency (DHS)-Each county has their own agency.
- Law enforcement/police
- Visit the emergency room at a local hospital if you have immediate concerns of abuse or neglect, particularly if you believe the child may have experienced physical injuries as a result.
- Immediately schedule visits for your child or adolescent with a mental health and a medical professional who can assess your child for child abuse and neglect. Please click here to learn about mental health and medical providers in your area who can assess for and/or treat children who have been abused and/or neglected. If you are outside the central MS area, please click on the following link(s) to learn about community mental health resources in your area: http://www.dmh.state.ms.us/pdf/CYSDirectory-Arial-9-15-08.pdf, http://www.nami.org/MSTemplate.cfm?Site=NAMI_Mississippi
- Two types of assessments are important to have completed if you suspect that your child or adolescent has been abused or neglected. Both of these assessments should be completed prior to the beginning of mental health treatment, if possible (although it is understood that at times this is not possible).
- The first type of assessment is called a forensic interview, during which a mental health professional will ask your child or adolescent questions about the abuse or neglect. This type of interview is done by specially trained professionals with particular expertise in how to ask these questions of children.
- The second type of assessment is a forensic medical examination, during which a medical professional will examine your child or adolescent for physical evidence of the abuse or neglect.
- The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (APSAC) is an organization providing education and guidance for individuals on the prevention, assessment, and treatment of child abuse and neglect. Their website is located at: http://www.apsac.org/mc/page.do.
1Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (2003). Retrieved from http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/laws_policies/cblaws/capta03/index.htm, March 2, 2009.
2Missisippi Department of Family & Children's Services, Child Protective Services (2008). Retrieved from http://www.mdhs.state.ms.us/fcs_prot.html, March 2, 2009.
3Kilpatrick, Saunders, and Resick (1998).
6Foshee et al. (1996); Avery-Leaf et al. (1997).
7Kilpatrick et al. (2003); Saunders et al. (1999); Boney-McCoy & Finkelhor (1995).
8Cicchetti & Toth (1995); Schwab-Stone et al. (1995); Whipple & Webster-Stratton (1991).