Breaking the Silence: Spotting and Stopping Child Abuse

By Scott Sarvay
By Megan Trent

April 25, 2011 Updated Apr 25, 2011 at 5:57 PM EDT

INDIANA (Indiana’s NewsCenter) - Bumps and bruises. Is it just kids being kids, or something more serious?

In Indiana, reported cases of child abuse increased by 24% last year. So, we asked - why? And how can the community help bring those numbers back down?

"Child abuse and neglect is one of the most challenging issues for us to address as a community," says Bill Stanczykiewicz, the President and CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute.

Abuse can come in many forms - physical, sexual, emotional, and neglect. It's always been a problem, but why the 24% rise in abuse in 2010?

"Stresses caused by the economy, and adults, tragically, taking that stress out on their child," says Stanczykiewicz. "Always, alcohol and substance abuse are some things we have to take a look at closely, including the increase in meth that's occurring around the state of Indiana."

In addition, 800 more case workers have also been hired in recent years. That may mean we're getting better at catching the abuse that's been happening all along, says Stanczykiewicz.

But what can everyday citizens do to make a difference?

"So often, these parents are stressed, or there are substance abuse issues, and how do we try to detect that as a neighbor or as another citizen? But if you notice it, if you detect it, Indiana law requires that you report this. You can report it anonymously to the police, or the Department of Child Services," says Stanczykiewicz.

There are signs that experts say you should look for.

"One bruise from a little league diamond doesn't mean there's child abuse and neglect, but a bruise on the face and if things happen repeatedly, and then you also notice that the child is timid or shaking or overly despondent? You start putting those things together and child abuse and neglect might be something that's going on. So, certainly we need to be careful, but we also need to be caring about kids who might be gravely at risk," says Stanczykiewicz.

Most experts agree that prevention is key in stopping the cycle of abuse.

“Kids who have been abused or neglected are much more likely to drop out of school, much more likely to live in poverty, much more likely to become violent and become abusers themselves. Their self esteem plummets to below zero and that sets a pattern as well for the rest of their lives."

He adds, "If we can find out that you're going through this stress in the first place, and it's not easy for people to admit that they are doing so, then we can start surrounding you with the help that you need."

To find out one step you can take today to begin making a difference in the lives of abused children, please watch the attached video.

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