Since 2017, there have been 60,841 child abuse investigations in Oklahoma. Nearly 88% of these cases neglect, in which deliberate physical harm is not brought upon the child but the harm is the result of a lack of basic needs for the child. However, the most common forms of abuse and neglect seen today are physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.
According to the American Society for Positive Care of Children, physical abuse is a non-accidental act that results in physical injury. When an injury is inflicted, it is usually caused by unreasonable punishment given by a legal guardian, resulting in bruises. Bruises happen when blood vessels breaks under the skin. It is difficult to get a bruise on places like your ear, neck, and upper lip from falling accidentally. Patterned bruises like belt marks or slap marks are one of the first indicator of abuse. Crestly Tyree, a counselor at the Bartlesville High School, says if you see any of these signs to report them immediately.
“If you feel comfortable, you can call Child Protective Services (CPS),” Tyree said. “Otherwise, tell a trusted adult or trustee. It is not your job as a friend or peers to investigate if the abuse is actually happening or not. If you suspect anything at all, then you need to tell someone, preferably a school counselor, teacher, or parent.”
Children who are experiencing abuse and neglect may behave differently for a number of reasons. Stressors such as divorce or a death in a family can result in abuse. Just as physical abuse can scar and debilitate a child, emotional abuse can cripple a child behaviorally and intellectually just as much as physical abuse.
Psychological disorders present in children have been traced back to twisted parental attitudes and actions. Sexual and physical abuse are only a fraction of the cases reported reported each year, but emotional is just as detrimental to a child’s development. If a child’s parent verbally abuses them on a regular basis, the child begins to live up to the expectation their parent has of them. Emotional abuse, however, can be difficult to prove. The most common sign of emotional abuse is often when a child “acts out” by bullying other children and uses profanity.
What happens to kids during childhood shapes who they become as an adult. One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused by the time they turn 18. Children living through abuse and violence unfortunately suffer the effects of this trauma for the rest of their lives. Even if the victim does not want you to say anything to anyone, it is best to tell someone.
“Tell them that you’re sorry but you have to do the right thing and that may mean making them mad at you for a bit,” Tyree said. “Or you can tell them that you only want what’s best for them and want them to be safe. Or you can tell a little white lie and say that you won’t tell anyone but then definitely tell someone. Whenever you call CPS you can remain anonymous if you want, so nobody will ever know that it was you who reported it.”