What You Can Do if You Suspect Child Abuse
With April quickly approaching, so is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
As I emphasize all year long, but especially during this time of year, it is everyone’s responsibility to educate themselves on the signs of child abuse and learn what can be done to prevent such a tragedy.
As many of you may know, in 2008 I was appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court as a Judge for the Circuit Court of Cook County in the Domestic Relations Division. During my time in this division, I witnessed and ruled on hundreds, if not thousands, child abuse cases.
These stories broke my heart and continue to influence my work as a Child’s Representative in Cook County, and as a Guardian ad Litem. Since my retirement as a judge, I’ve returned to my family law practice where I protect children, as well as by advocating for adult education and treatment to break the cycle of violence and abuse so often found within families.
If you need further proof of the epidemic of child abuse within our country, here are some sobering statistics…
Recent studies have shown that between four and seven children die every single day as a direct result of child abuse. Each year, more than 3.6 million cases of child abuse are reported to protection agencies, and these are only the reported cases! Child abuse, especially neglect, all too often goes unreported. The effects of child abuse continue long into adulthood, with a recent study showing that 80% of 21-year-olds who were abused as children now exhibit the signs of at least one psychological disorder.
It is up to everyone to recognize and prevent child abuse! If you are ever in a position where you suspect that a child you know is being abused, you may be the only one who can help them. It can be extremely difficult to deal with this type of situation if you don’t know for sure that abuse is occurring, so below please find my tips for what to do if you suspect that a child is being abused.
Seek Out A Different Perspective
If you suspect child abuse is occurring, but have no concrete evidence, it can be very helpful to confide in someone who is as close or closer to the child, such as a teacher or a doctor. Confer with another adult to see if he or she might share the same suspicions. If they are in closer contact with the child, they may have noticed signs that you haven’t.
Take note of your conversations with the child and the interactions you see them having with others. This can be very helpful in determining patterns of behavior and could even help advocate for them in court.
Continue Interacting with the Child
It is very, very difficult for children to talk about abuse they may be suffering, so don’t be surprised if the child says nothing to you about it. Remember, they need trusted adults with them now more than ever, so be sure to make yourself readily available to them if a time comes and they do wish to confide in you.
Get a Professional Opinion
If you are still unsure that what you are observing is child abuse, it is best to speak to a professional. There are many excellent and anonymous hotlines that you can call and receive the advice of someone more versed in this issue. A quick Google search should indicate a hotline with staff in your area.
At the Law Office of Michael Ian Bender, our motto and driving mission is that “there is no excuse for child abuse!” This April, take the time to educate yourself on this issue and learn what you can do to help a child in need.