The Telltale Signs Of Child Abuse

Jade Moon
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Wednesday - August 15, 2007
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I couldn’t leave the subject of child abuse without talking about what we should do if we see or suspect a child is being hurt or neglected.

One of the sadder things about the case involving a severely malnourished 12-year-old girl is that neighbors did try to do the right thing. They reported their suspicions to the state, and yet the girl was returned to her parents - who reportedly hurt her again.

Some would point to this and say it’s proof reporting isn’t effective. They may be tempted to look the other way, believing nothing they do will make a difference.

I hope that does not happen. Reporting is still the best chance a child has of escaping a dangerous home.

Prevent Child Abuse Hawaii says the problem is huge. Executive Director Jonathon Won says that in 2005 there were 7,200 cases of reported child abuse in Hawaii, and 4,000 of them were confirmed!

If that sounds shocking - and it is - consider this: Those 4,000 are likely just the tip of the iceberg. Won says many cases go unreported.

But what if it’s happening to a child you know, and you just don’t recognize what’s going on?

Won says people should look for one or more of these warning signs:

* The child withdraws

* Arms, legs and body are always covered

* Drop in grades

* Missing school a lot

* Begging for or stealing money or food

* Lacking needed medical and dental care

* Frequently dirty

* Using alcohol and/or drugs

* Saying no one is home to take care of him or her

Won says it will take the collective will of the community to reduce child abuse in Hawaii. It’ll take the vigilance of citizens and more effective follow-through by the state. Won believes there should be a requirement to monitor children who have been returned.

He also believes in prevention. One of the first things he did as executive director was to write a bill requiring hospitals to educate new parents about shaken baby syndrome.

That bill passed this year and was signed into law by Gov. Linda Lingle. From now on before they take their baby home, all new parents will receive material on how to avoid this particular form of abuse.

Won says new parents may not “realize that when you get frustrated, you need to walk out of the room.”

Won says the goal is to eliminate deaths from shaken baby syndrome. Even if a child lives after being severely shaken, the baby’s brain may be damaged for life. Some of these children, he says, “need 100 percent care for up to 25 years.”

If you’d like to know more, please call Prevent Child Abuse Hawaii at 951-0200.

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