Violence is a serious public health problem in the United States. From infants to the elderly, it affects people in all stages of life. Many more survive violence and are left with permanent physical and emotional scars. Violence also erodes communities by reducing productivity, decreasing property values, and disrupting social services.
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Child abuse and neglect is an issue that affects many lives in the United States – every 10 seconds, a report of child abuse is made and 6.6 million children are referred for help each year. As it negatively impacts many lives, it is important to be aware of what constitutes child abuse and neglect, as well as what you can do if you suspect, witness, or are experiencing child abuse.
Child abuse is broken down into multiple categories; physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional/psychological abuse, verbal abuse or neglect.
Physical abuse is defined as using physical force intentionally against a child that can harm their health, survival or activity. Physical abuse includes hitting, beating, kicking, shaking, biting, strangling, scalding, burning, poisoning, and suffocating.
Signs of possible physical abuse include:
- Injuries such as bruises, wounds, or burns that are not consistent with the explanation given for them
- Injuries that occur in places on the body that are not normally exposed to falls or play
- Injuries that have not received medical attention
- Behavioral extremes like becoming emotionally/socially withdrawn, aggressive, or depressive.
- Inappropriate or excessive fear of parent or caretaker.
- Unusual shyness, wariness of physical contact.
Sexual abuse is when a child is involved in a sexual act aimed toward the physical gratification or financial profit of the person committed to the act. Sexual abuse includes indecent exposure of the genitals to a child, asking or pressuring a child to engage in sexual activities, having sexual contact with a child, physical contact with the child’s genitals, or using a child to produce child pornography.
Signs of possible sexual abuse include:
- Any allegations made by a child concerning sexual abuse
- Excessive preoccupation with sexual matters and inappropriate knowledge of sexual behaviors for their age
- Urinary tract infections, unexplained stomach pains, or frequent sore throats
- Sexual provocation towards adults
- Inappropriate bed-sharing arrangements at home
Verbal Abuse, also known as reviling or ” verbal bullying,” is described as a negative defining statement told to the victim or about the victim, or by withholding any response, thereby defining the target as non-existent
Signs of possible verbal abuse:
- Yelling, shouting, swearing, continuously arguing, interrupting, talking over you, put downs, using loud threatening language and tone to cause fear, name calling, intimidating you, mocking you, abusive language.
Emotional abuse, also called psychological abuse, is defined as any act including confinement, isolation, verbal assault, humiliation, intimidation, or any other treatment which may harm a child’s identity, dignity, and self-worth.
Signs of possible emotional abuse include:
- Depression, aggression, extreme anxiety, or any extreme changes or regression in mood or behavior
- Extreme shyness or passivity
- Sudden underachievement or inability to concentrate
- Seeking attention from adults and not playing well with other children
- Negative statements about themselves
- Highly aggressive or cruel others
Child neglect is the failure of the caretaker to provide food, clothing, shelter, medical care, or supervision to the degree that the child’s health, safety, and well-being are threatened with harm.
Some possible signs of neglect include:
- Frequent absence from school
- Begging or stealing food or money
- Lacking needed medical and dental care
- Consistently dirty
- Frequently hungry or overeating junk food
- Untreated illnesses or physical complaints
What to Do If You Suspect or Witness Child Abuse
If you suspect a child is being abused, it’s critical to get them the help he or she needs. Reporting child abuse seems so official. Many people are reluctant to get involved in other families’ lives.
Understanding some of the myths behind reporting may help put your mind at ease if you need to report child abuse.
- I don’t want to interfere in someone else’s family. The effects of child abuse are lifelong, affecting future relationships, self-esteem, and sadly putting even more children at risk of abuse as the cycle continues. Help break the cycle of child abuse.
- What if I break up someone’s home? The priority in child protective services is keeping children in the home. A child abuse report does not mean a child is automatically removed from the home—unless the child is clearly in danger. Support such as parenting classes, anger management or other resources may be offered first to parents if safe for the child.
- They will know it was me who called. Reporting is anonymous. In most places, you do not have to give your name when you report child abuse. The child abuser cannot find out who made the report of child abuse.
- It won’t make a difference what I have to say. If you have a gut feeling that something is wrong, it is better to be safe than sorry. Even if you don’t see the whole picture, others may have noticed as well, and a pattern can help identify child abuse that might have otherwise slipped through the cracks.
To report suspected child abuse or neglect, or to talk to someone to figure out if what you’re observing is reportable, you can call your local law enforcement agency, the National Child Abuse Resource or dial 911.
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It is not rare when we hear a student share with us about the unhealthy relationships in their life. Whether it’s a first time boyfriend or girlfriend, a sibling, a parent, a classmate or a best friend … Our kids are learning boundaries, how to express their needs, how to pick and choose who they want to surround themselves with and how to assert their voice when something isn’t right. So it’s no wonder to us that the statistics of Teen Dating Violence are so high.
“Adolescents and adults are often unaware that teens experience dating violence. In a nationwide survey, 9.4 percent of high school students report being hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose by their boyfriend or girlfriend in the 12 months prior to the survey. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey). About 1 in 5 women and nearly 1 in 7 men who ever experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner, first experienced some form of partner violence between 11 and 17 years of age (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey).”
Why Focus on Young People?
- Girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence — almost triple the national average.
- Violent behavior typically begins between the ages of 12 and 18.
- The severity of intimate partner violence is often greater in cases where the pattern of abuse was established in adolescence.
- About 72% of eighth and ninth graders are “dating”.
What are the consequences of dating violence?
As teens develop emotionally, they are heavily influenced by their relationship experiences. Healthy relationship behaviors can have a positive effect on a teen’s emotional development.
Unhealthy, abusive or violent relationships can cause short term and long -term negative effects, or consequences to the developing teen.:
- Put the victims at higher risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior and further domestic violence.
- Being physically or sexually abused makes teen girls six times more likely to become pregnant and twice as likely to get a STI.
- Half of youth who have been victims of both dating violence and rape attempt suicide, compared to 12.5% of non-abused girls and 5.4% of non-abused boys.
Is your boy/girlfriend likely to abuse you?
- Showing symptoms of trauma
- Using alcohol
- Having friends involved in dating violence
- Having problem behaviors in other areas
- Believing dating violence is okay
- Being exposed to harsh parenting or inconsistent discipline
- Not having parental supervision, monitoring, or warm relationships with parents
For more information:
Hotline Phone Numbers
Domestic Violence Hotline: 800.621.HOPE (4673)
Crime Victims Hotline: 866.689.HELP (4357)
Rape & Sexual Assault Hotline: 212.227.3000
FEBRUARY IS NATIONAL TEEN DATING VIOLENCE AWARENESS AND PREVENTION MONTH. CLICK HERE FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA’S PROCLAMATION
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In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Youth Project is talking to kids about Healthy and Safe Relationships.
Did you know?
- 1 in 3 adolescents in the US is a victim of verbal, emotional, sexual and physical abuse by a dating partner
- Nearly 1 in 5 teenage girls who have been in a relationship said a boyfriend had threatened violence or self-harm if presented with a break-up
- Only half of all tweens (age 11-14) claim to know the warning signs of a bad/hurtful relationship
- Twenty-four percent of 14 to 17-year-olds know at least one student who has been the victim of dating violence, yet 81% of parents either believe teen dating violence is not an issue or admit they don’t know if it is an issue
- Less than 25% of teens say they have discussed dating violence with their parents
- Nearly 80% of girls who have been physically abused in their intimate relationships continue to date their abuser
Violence is related to certain risk factors. Risks of having unhealthy relationships increase for teens who:
- Use alcohol or drugs.
- Can’t manage anger or frustration.
- Hang out with violent peers.
- Have multiple sexual partners.
- Have a friend involved in dating violence.
- Are depressed or anxious.
- Have learning difficulties and other problems at school.
- Don’t have parental supervision and support.
- Witness violence at home or in the community.
- Have a history of aggressive behavior or bullying.
Victims of teen dating violence are more likely to do poorly in school, and report binge drinking, suicide attempts, and physical fighting. Victims may also carry the patterns of violence into future relationships. However, dating violence can be prevented when teens, families, organizations, and communities work together to implement effective prevention strategies.
Red Flags and Warning Signs: (From www.safeyouth.org)
Teenagers generally do not tell people when they are involved in a violent relationship, so it is important for adults to be alert for signs that a teen may be involved in a relationship that is, or has the potential to become, abusive. Some of the following signs are just part of being a teenager. But, when these changes happen suddenly, or without an explanation, there may be cause for concern.
- Does the individual have unexplained bruises, scratches, or injuries?
- Do you see signs that the individual is afraid of his/her boyfriend or girlfriend?
- Does the boyfriend or girlfriend seem to try to control the individual’s behavior, making all of the decisions, checking up on his/her behavior, demanding to know who the individual has been with, and acting jealous and possessive?
- Does the boyfriend or girlfriend lash out, criticize, or insult the individual?
- Does the individual apologize for the boyfriend or girlfriend’s behavior to you and others? Has the individual casually mentioned the boyfriend or girlfriend’s temper or violent behavior, but then laughed it off as a joke?
- Have you seen the boyfriend or girlfriend be abusive towards other people or things?
- Does the individual seem to have lost interest or to be giving up things that were once important? Has he/she lost interest in school or other activities?
- Has the individual’s appearance or behavior suddenly changed?
- Has the individual stopped spending time with friends and family?
- Have you seen sudden changes in the individual’s mood or personality?
- Is the individual becoming anxious or depressed, acting out, or being secretive? Is the individual avoiding eye contact, having ‘crying jags’ or getting ‘hysterical?’
- Has the individual recently started using alcohol or drugs?
If you suspect or know that your child is being abused by a partner, you have resources:
- Call law enforcement or 911
- Call the National Domestic Abuse Hotline 1.800.799.SAFE (7233)
- Make a safety plan with your child
- Stay in communication with your teen; let them know they can open up to you no matter what.
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1 in 4 girls will be sexually abused before the age of 18
1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18
30-40% of victims are abused by a family member
Another 50% by someone they know and trust
As you can imagine and have probably experienced for yourself, child sexual abuse is a difficult subject for most adults to talk about, let alone the children who are its victims. As such we must begin with the basics and break the silence. In doing so, we achieve five key objectives as follows: CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION
TAALK will host a 24 hour internet radio show with guest speakers each hour covering a variety of topics related to child sexual abuse awareness, prevention and support. Hear 60+ speakers from around the world with the brightest minds and the biggest hearts. It’s an event you won’t want to miss!
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Violence at school is a growing concern nationwide. Any and every school is susceptible to violence. The existence of violence in schools is a reflection of violence that occurs within the larger community and society in general.
- Approximately 160,000 students miss class each school day because they fear physical harm.
- Nearly one quarter of students in grades 3-12 are somewhat worried or very worried about being harmed while at school.
- 20% of students in grades 3-12 feel that threats and the use of weapons are major problems in their schools.
- 77% of teachers felt very safe in or around school, as opposed to only 50% of students.
- It is estimated that between 100,000 and 135,000 guns are brought into schools on a daily basis nationwide.
- 22% of boys and 4% of girls report that they have brought weapons to school at some time.
- Nearly 3 million thefts and violent crimes occur on or near school campuses every year. This equates to almost 16,000 incidents per day or one every six seconds.
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Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual contact or sexual intention committed by force, threats of violence, bribes, manipulation, pressure or violence. It includes rape and attempted rape, child molestation and incest. Sexual assault is a crime of violence, anger and control. Assailants can be strangers, acquaintances, friends or family members.
Research indicates that 1 out of every 3 women, 1 out of every 9 men, and 1 out of every 4 children is sexually assaulted.
If you have been sexually assaulted
- Go to a safe place and call someone you trust. If you don’t want to tell someone you know right now, call the RAINN Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.
- Preserve the evidence. Do not change anything about the scene where the assault occurred. Do not wash any part of your body, comb your hair or change your clothes. If you must change your clothes, put them in a plastic bag.
- Get medical attention as soon as possible. It is important to be examined medically to detect injury and for possible protection against sexually transmitted diseases.
- Think about reporting the assault to the police. Telling the police does not mean that you have to prosecute.
- If you do want to prosecute, it is essential to have a rape exam at a hospital emergency room soon after the assault. To increase your options later, this exam is recommended, even if you are unsure about prosecuting.
- Remember, the assault is not your fault.
How you might feel
Following a sexual assault, you might feel:
- Nothing at all
These feelings are all normal reactions to a violent crime.
Take These Precautions
- First and foremost, think ahead of time about how you would react if you were assaulted.
- Trust your feelings. If you feel that you are in danger, you probably are.
- Walk confidently. Be aware of your surroundings. · Stay in well lighted areas.
- If you find yourself in danger, yell “FIRE.”
- Check your car before getting in. Keep doors locked and windows up. Before approaching your car, look underneath it at a distance. Sometimes attackers lay underneath the car.
- Do not pick up hitchhikers.
- Learn to defend yourself.
- Do not stop to assist stalled drivers. Drive on and call the police. Do not accept assistance if your car is stalled. Tell anyone who offers help to call the police.
Facts and Myths About Sexual Assault
Myth: Rape is sex
Fact: Rape is not sex. It is a crime motivated by a need to control, humiliate and harm. Rapists use sexual violence as a weapon to hurt and dominate others.
Myth: Women ask to be raped.
Fact: The way people look, act or dress does not invite sexual assault. Victims are selected because they appear vulnerable. Sexual assault is an act of violence.
Myth: Rapists are lonely, sexually unfulfilled men.
Fact: Studies of convicted male rapists indicate that more than 60% were married and virtually all had normal sexual relationships with women at the time they committed the assault.
Myth: Boys and men cannot be sexually assaulted.
Fact: Almost as many boys as girls will be sexually assaulted by age eighteen. One in nine men will be sexually assaulted as an adult.
Myth: No one can be sexually assaulted against her or his will.
Fact: Most adult victims, even those who are not phusically harmed, fear injury and death during a sexual assault. Children who are assaulted are often confused, unable to question the power and authority of the abuser, and do not know how to get help.
Advice for Guys
- Think about whether you really want to have sex with someone who doesn’t want to have sex with you; how will you feel afterwards if your partner tells you he or she didn’t want to have sex.
- If you are getting a double message from a woman, speak up and clarify what she wants. If you find yourself in a situation with a woman who is unsure about having sex or is saying “no”, do not go any further.
- Be sensitive to a person who is unsure whether or not they want to have sex. If you put pressure on them, you might be forcing them.
- Stay in touch with your sexual desires. Ask yourself if you are really hearing what she wants.
The Youth Project prides itself on creating a safe, non-judgmental and confidential setting in which students speak freely and can be assured that the stories they share remain private. However, all students are informed that we are a mandated reporting agency, meaning: if we have reasonable suspicion that a child (under the age of 18) has been mistreated, we are required to file a report with the necessary agencies.
We will report when a student shares information on:
Physical Abuse, Emotional Abuse, Harm to Themselves, Sexual Abuse, Neglect, Harm to Others
All sessions are confidential. However, we are a mandated reporting agency and if a student expresses a desire to harm himself or others or if there is reason to suspect child abuse or neglect, we are obligated to report to the appropriate agency. ALL STUDENTS are reminded of this before every session.***