April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month – a time to recognize the importance of communities working together to help families thrive and prevent child maltreatment.

by Whitney Anderson, LIMHP and Clinical Supervisor-RSafe®
Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska, Inc.

Did you know that in Nebraska, everyone is a mandatory reporter? This means physicians, medical institutions, nurses, school employees, social workers, or any other person who has reasonable cause to believe that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect, is required by law to make a report to the Child Protective Services Hotline and/or law enforcement. (Nebraska Revised Statute 28-711)

There is not any single type of child abuse and typically, they are not occurring in a mutually exclusive environment. Categories of abuse include:

  • Physical abuse – Physical child abuse occurs when a child is purposely physically injured or put at risk of harm by another person.
  • Sexual abuse – Sexual child abuse is any sexual activity with a child, such as fondling, oral-genital contact, intercourse, exploitation or exposure to child pornography. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) defines child sexual abuse as the following: Any interaction between a child and an adult (or another child) in which the child is used for the sexual stimulation of the perpetrator or an observer. Sexual abuse can include both touching and non-touching behaviors. Non-touching behaviors can include voyeurism (trying to look at a child’s naked body), exhibitionism, or exposing the child to pornography. Children of all ages, races, ethnicities, and economic backgrounds may experience sexual abuse. Child sexual abuse affects both girls and boys in all kinds of neighborhoods and communities.
  • Emotional abuse – Emotional child abuse means injuring a child’s self-esteem or emotional well-being. It includes verbal and emotional assault — such as continually belittling or berating a child — as well as isolating, ignoring, or rejecting a child.
  • Child neglect is failure to provide adequate food, shelter, affection, supervision, education, or dental or medical care.

How symptoms can look in children

40% of children have no symptoms. For the other 60%, however, children may exhibit the following behaviors:

  • Avoidant, anxious, clingy
  • General fearfulness/new fears
  • Helplessness, passive, low frustration
  • Restless, impulsive, hyperactive
  • Physical symptoms (headache, stomachache etc.)
  • Difficulty identifying what is bothering them
  • Inattention, difficulty problem solving
  • Daydreaming or dissociation
  • Irritability
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Sexualized behavior
  • Loss of recent developmental achievements
  • Repetitive/ post-traumatic play
  • Talking about the traumatic event and reacting to reminders/trauma triggers
  • Sadness/depression
  • Poor peer relationships and social problems (controlling/over-permissive)

In teens:

  • Strong emotions such as sadness, anger, anxiety and guilt
  • Overreacting to minor irritations
  • Repetitively thinking about the traumatic event and talking about it often
  • Disturbed sleeping patterns
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Wanting to spend more time alone
  • Being very protective of family and friends
  • Returning to younger ways of behaving including giving up responsibilities or a sudden return to rebellious behavior
  • Increased need for independence
  • Self-absorption and caring only about what is immediately important
  • Loss of interest in school, friends, hobbies, and life in general
  • Pessimistic outlook on life, being cynical and distrusting of others
  • Depression and feelings of hopelessness
  • Difficulties with short-term memory, concentration and problem solving
  • Unhealthy coping strategies- Substance use
  • Sexual promiscuity

Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska has a unique program to help individuals with problematic sexual behavior. Click here to learn more about RSafe® Therapy

If you suspect that a child has been abused or neglected, call:

Nebraska: 1-800-652-1999 (CPS Hotline) or local law enforcement
Iowa: 1-800-362-2178 (DHS Hotline) or local law enforcement

In Nebraska, everyone is a mandatory reporter. This means physicians, medical institutions, nurses, school employees, social workers or any other person who has reasonable cause to believe that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect is required by law to make a report to the CPS Hotline and/or Law Enforcement. (Nebraska Revised Statute 28-711)

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