Posted by: Emily | March 31, 2010

Signs of Child Abuse

Did you know that a report of child abuse is made every ten seconds?

What exactly is child abuse? According to MedlinePlus (run by the US National Library of Medicine and the National Institute of Health) it is simply doing something or not doing something that harms a child or puts a child at risk. Just like domestic abuse in adults it can be physical, sexual, or emotional and includes neglect and medical neglect as well.

Now what? Well the site actually linked me to a page at childwelfare.gov that discussed the signs of child abuse in both children and their caretakers. There are many more signs than what I’ll list below, but the ones below are a great starting point. And remember, just one sign doesn’t necessarily mean that the child or children are being abused.

Signs of Physical Abuse

Consider the possibility of physical abuse when the child:

  • Has unexplained burns, bites, bruises, broken bones, or black eyes
  • Has fading bruises or other marks noticeable after an absence from school
  • Shrinks at the approach of adults

Consider the possibility of physical abuse when the parent or other adult caregiver:

  • Offers conflicting, unconvincing, or no explanation for the child’s injury
  • Has a history of abuse as a child

Signs of Neglect

Consider the possibility of neglect when the child:

  • Is frequently absent from school
  • Lacks needed medical or dental care, immunizations, or glasses
  • Lacks sufficient clothing for the weather

Consider the possibility of neglect when the parent or other adult caregiver:

  • Appears to be indifferent to the child
  • Behaves irrationally or in a bizarre manner

Signs of Sexual Abuse

Consider the possibility of sexual abuse when the child:

  • Has difficulty walking or sitting
  • Suddenly refuses to change for gym or to participate in physical activities
  • Reports sexual abuse by a parent or another adult caregiver

Consider the possibility of sexual abuse when the parent or other adult caregiver:

  • Is unduly protective of the child or severely limits the child’s contact with other children, especially of the opposite sex
  • Is secretive and isolated

Signs of Emotional Abuse

Consider the possibility of emotional abuse when the child:

  • Shows extremes in behavior, such as overly compliant or demanding behavior, extreme passivity, or aggression
  • Is delayed in physical or emotional development
  • Reports a lack of attachment to the parent

Consider the possibility of emotional maltreatment when the parent or other adult caregiver:

  • Constantly blames, belittles, or berates the child
  • Is unconcerned about the child and refuses to consider offers of help for the child’s problems
  • Overtly rejects the child

These are just a few of the signs. I hope we can all become more aware of the statistics of child abuse and know that this is not just one family’s problem, but a societal issue. From my research on the topic I’ve realized that so many issues that could be resolved if our society decides that it truly wants to solve them and take part in making a change themselves. If you know of anyone abusing their child, assess the situation and either call the police or talk to a counselor or other professional about the specific issue and what should be done.  Not every issue can be solved with a clear-cut answer.

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Posted by: Emily | March 29, 2010

Teen Relationships

I dated a boy in high school for a couple of years. I thought it was a pretty normal relationship, but looking back I can see a lot of things that I would have changed, or parts that were not as “normal” as I thought. Not that the boy I dated was abusive, but as a teen, I just didn’t know what a healthy relationship was.

I think that it is especially important now for teens to open up to eachother and to adults about what is healthy and what is not. I recently found a forum from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (a great public health foundation with tons of information, research, and news briefs galore) entitled “A Healthy Conversation About Teen Relationships.” It is a forum that was opened for two weeks (although they’ve decided to keep the last thread open for a couple days longer due to the amount of support, posts, and ideas) that was meant to create a platform for new programs, partners, gender-specific programs and insight into prevention through behavior change.

As I was reading through the comments and threads there were many that made me think a little bit more about what I think, what I’ve learned and what I can do. I’ve decided to include a few, add my two cents, and invite others to add what they thing needs to be done and their own opinions on the issues at hand.They’re a little long, but worth the consideration.

“I think teens need to hear stories- true stories, from people who have been through abuse. The closer in age the people are to the teens, the better, so that they can really relate. That would have helped me, I’m sure. The idea that my ex was verbally abusing me didnt cross my mind until a couple weeks after he broke up with me and I heard a speaker tell of her experience. It made me look at my relationship with a whole different perspective and cleared up a lot of things. I think the best thing we can do is get the word out using real life stories, and real people.”

“I am only 21 years old but as a teen I was in an abusive relationship. I had wanted someone around my age to be able to talk to about what was going on. Most teens do not like talking to their parents or even another adult because they feel they do not understand them. I would like to take the time to talk to teens about what I have been through. I was so worried about being an outcast and people thinking something was wrong with me I was willing to stay in a relationship that was unhealthy just to fit in. Teens need to be told by people around their age that relationships don’t make them who they are. I think that more people my age need to take an interest in informing teens about what they have been through both healthy and unhealthy relationships. So my advice to teens is don’t be afriad to ask questions and talk to someone they trust.”

As I read both of these comments the first thing that popped up in my mind was, “community health worker.” Although the link to community health worker is a general wiki article, I think it’s so important that people are exposed to what a community health worker is, and who it is. The article cites developing countries as those who use community health workers, but they are used here in the US as well.

We need people here–those who were once in abusive relationships or friends and family who can tell real stories–to not be afraid of letting their voice be heard and to not think that someone at a health department can have more influence. I think that it is the people with real stories and real experiences that can influence the most.



Posted by: Emily | March 6, 2010

What Is Verbal Abuse?

After multiple Google-ing efforts, I found a definition of verbal abuse According to the US Legal Definitions website, verbal abuse is “the use of words to cause harm to the person being spoken to.” I also found another website’s article that focuses on warning signs of verbal abuse, and that triggered my thoughts.

When many people think of abuse the first thing that comes to their mind is physical: bruises and black eyes. But I’ve been volunteering at the local women’s shelter for some time and let me tell you: the abuse that people cannot see is often the worst kind. In listening in on a session that the women were having, one of the women said, “I often feel like I wish he would have hit me, so people could see how much it hurts and how much I’ve been affected by it all.” WOW. I never really thought about it before.

The most common form of verbal abuse is name-calling. Here’s a list of the top 10 warning signs of verbal abuse from the site found above:

1. Yelling – The conversation hurts your ears, you’re closing windows and doors so the neighbors won’t overhear.
2. Name Calling – These are ugly, ugly words and degrading to the person hearing them.  Stupid, fat, ugly, trailer trash, idiot, all racial slurs, clumsy, pie hole, bean pole, forgetful, crazy, insane, black sheep, dork, freak, bitch, bastard, pig, queer, redneck, bum, lazy, coward, baby, nasty, stingy, etc.
3. Criticizing – You didn’t.. couldn’t… shouldn’t… should have… could have… never… must… it would be better if… you should be more like…
4. Shaming – Shame on you. Why would you do that? You are so bad. You should be ashamed of yourself.  You were a mistake.  You’ve ruined my life.
5. Swearing – People swear as an outlet for very strong emotions like frustration, injury, anger or fear, but it scares the person on the receiving end.
6. Threatening – If you don’t…I will.  I’m going to …  Brandishing a weapon at you.  Stalking.  Making intimidating facial expressions at you, walking toward you in a menacing way.
7. Blaming – It’s your fault.  You did it.  You caused it.  He started it.  She caused it.  It wasn’t my fault.  You made me… Because of you… You gave me no choice.  My disease made me do it.  She was just a bad wife to begin with.
8. Refuses to discuss things that upset you – I don’t want to talk about it… right now… ever.  Go away.  Not again.  Oh my God.  Stop your whining.  Ask someone who cares.
9. Disrespectful – Says you don’t know what you’re talking about.  Won’t introduce you to others.  Ignores you at functions.  Makes noises or rolls eyes when you are speaking.
10. Ridicule – Acts of contempt.  Wah, wah, wah, you are such a baby.  What an idiot.  That’s what you get for thinking.  That’s just ridiculous.

Verbal abuse is abuse. Just because someone doesn’t have a black eye does not mean that they aren’t abused.

I hope that by learning just a few of these signs that people’s minds can be open to what abuse really is. And that we can decide now to make this stop. To not tolerate abuse any more.

Once again, I just wanted to share the number for the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233.  It’s open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, for all 50 states, with 170 languages available (with the help of translators). Whether you are being abused, or you are a friend or loved one of someone being abused, hotline advocates want to help and they can by  providing help with crisis intervention, safety planning, information about domestic violence and referrals to local service providers.

Posted by: Emily | March 1, 2010

Domestic Abuse and Animal Abuse

I wanted to find the connection between domestic abuse and animal abuse. I found this article recently, which interested me. It talks about a man from California who strangled his dog (who later died from complications) and was arrested because of it and booked on felony animal cruelty charges. If convicted, he could spend up to three years in prison, or be fined $20,000 dollars. And the kicker is, when the man was booked for jail they found that he had an existing warrant for spousal abuse.

So what are the statistics linking the two together?

The article states a few facts that establish the link of animal abuse to other crimes, including other forms of abuse. Here are a few of them:

Animal abuse is often an indicator of future violence to humans.

In one study 71% of women in a battered women’s shelter reported their abuser either abused a household pet or threatened to abuse a pet. (Ascione, 1998)

In another study 88% of child abusers also abused the animals in the home. (Ascione)

In a study by Dr. Jacquelyn Campbell, Public Health Department, the Johns Hopkins University from 1994 to 2000 in eleven USA metropolitan cities, pet abuse was one of the four significant predictors for determining who was at highest risk for becoming a batterer. Many abused spouses delay leaving out of fear for their pets’ safety and because they have nowhere to take them. To them, it is like leaving a child behind.

WOW.  I didn’t know there was that much data on this issue. I also read here that a new bill has been passed by the Senate in Minnesota that would extend protective orders to pets and help victims of domestic violence situation. Because pets are considered a part of many families, this gives the perpetrator one less thing to control.

At the American Humane’s website I found a very long fact sheet that gave even more  statistics about this link as well as information about what to do if you are fleeing from domestic abuse and have a pet you need to keep safe.

The website suggests that women call their local humane society, SPCA, animal control agency, or veterinarian to find out if there are any temporary foster care facilities for pets belonging to battered women. I didn’t even know that places like that existed, but I’m sure glad that they do. The site also stated a fact that said that women have been known to live in their cars as they flee from domestic abuse but wait for an animal-friendly shelter to have an open bed.

All-in-all I learned today that there DEFINITELY is a link between animal abuse and domestic abuse and that animal abuse should not be taken lightly. Also, it’s important to make sure that there are resources for battered women’s pets to stay as they stay in the shelter.

Posted by: Emily | February 24, 2010

Harry Reid’s Comments on Abuse and Unemployment

With so many unemployed, there is a burden larger than evern on many men’s shoulder’s to get a job and to support their family. I just learned that on Monday Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev) made some interesting comments on the link between unemployment and abuse. And it’s all over the internet! Here’s a video of the actual comment:

What do you think?

In a recent article from the Washington Post, social workers would agree. According to the article, “While no study suggests that men “tend” to become abusive when unemployed, a 2004 National Institute of Justice study found that men who experience unemployment are more likely to engage in arguments with intimate partners that end in violence than men who are employed, and that the impact of unemployment is particularly acute in disadvantaged communities with thin social ties, where 15.6 percent of couples with men experiencing unstable employment have violent altercations.”

I think that it’s very unfortunate that abuse escalates as unemployment rises, but I think that it’s a correlation that we have to address and that we have to work on to improve.

It has long been known that ANYONE can be a victim or perpetrator of domestic abuse. Domestic abuse knows no perfect stereotype. But how does religion play into all of this?

Thanks to a blog post I recently found about religion and domestic violence, my mind started racing and I wanted to know other religion’s statements and thoughts about domestic abuse.

According to a news release by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,  also known as the Mormons, those that belong to this religion are not immune. Their official stand on abuse  “is that abuse cannot be tolerated in any form. Those who abuse or are cruel to their spouses, children, other family members, or anyone else violate the laws of God and man… the first responsibility of the Church is to help those who have been abused and to protect those who may be vulnerable to future abuse” (LDS Church Handbook, p 157.)”

They have established LDS Family Services, which is a nonprofit organization that helps families and individuals in many aspects of life. From adoption options to abuse and counseling, this group helps point families in the right direction.

The website includes a page with published articles from prominent members discussing abuse, the need for love in families, the journey of healing and much more. I really like the diversity of the site because it is not just for those in abusive relationships, but also for those who want to avoid harsh relationships and for those trying to help friends and family members in abusive relationships.

The site also has a list of offices and numbers in each state and other countries that can help and answer further questions. I was slightly disappointed in seeing that in their “other resources” page it was merely a google directory of general abuse websites. The site is helpful and I suggest calling Family Services in order to learn more. The local numbers will probably know more about what local services are available.

What is most important is that church leaders are addressing abuse and not sweeping it under the rug. There are pages for leaders as well as a 24-hour hotline for church leaders to help members. Family Services also focuses on child abuse and trying to stop the cycle of violence and prevent future violence.

Posted by: Emily | February 18, 2010

Spotlight: V-Day

When I think about V-day I automatically think of February 14th. What does the “V” stand for? Valentine’s, right? It can also stand for something else.  Something more. The people at vday.org say that the “V” in V-day stands for vagina. You heard me right, vagina.

After Eve Ensler started reading “The Vagina Monologues” (a play she wrote herself) many women would come up to her after the show and tell her that her stories meant so much because they too had been victims of rape or incest. She wrote the play after interviewing over 200 women and then compiled their stories to descirbe both their strength and sexuality.  In order to help women more, she and many other actresses and actors have come together to help women all over the world share “The Vagina Monologues” in their own native tongue and teach about keeping women’s bodies safe. Over $70 million dollars has been raised in the 10 years since V-Day started and the teaching continues.

If you go here you can look at a map to find out if V-Day events are happening near you. And if you’re too far away from the action you can go here and find out how to make something happen in your neck of the woods!

I really love finding charities that are helping women not only here in the United States, but all over the world. If you have a charity focused on domestic violence or domestic abuse or know of someone doing something to help, please let me know and I’ll make a spotlight blog.

Posted by: Emily | February 17, 2010

Violence in suburban Massachusetts

Valentine’s Day is supposed to be the day of love. But that love should be shown each day of the year.

For many women that love is not shown and instead, abuse takes its place.

This past Valentine’s Day was a day of awareness for many, to remember that even if you have your special someone, many are in violent and abusive relationships and may not be as lucky, and something must be done. In Boston, Massachusetts the local domestic violence shelter held their annual Valentine’s Day Vigil in remembrance of those who have and are currently suffering in order to raise awareness of the awfulness of domestic abuse. A reverand, a police sergeant, a state senator and a city councilor raised their voices for those who could not.

Since the beginning of 2010 ten women have already died from domestic abuse in Massachusetts alone. But I don’t think that I would have known about that if I had not been so interested in domestic abuse and stopping it. These tragedies do not make many local papers and are not focused upon, but should be, especially during this month of love.

Posted by: Emily | February 16, 2010

Spotlight: The Tiana Notice Foundation

Tiana Notice was 25 years old when she was brutally stabbed and killed by an abusive ex-boyfriend on Valentine’s Day 2009, in Connecticut. After an ex-boyfriend continued to send her hurtful and mean text messages she got a restraining order in January 2009. The harrassment continued when her tires were slashed. Her father decided to instal cameras outside her apartment and they formulized escape routes in case she needed to leave quickly. He told her neighbors to look out for her, but the violence continued and her ex-boyfriend was now calling her office and leaving notes at her apartment. A few days before her death she went to two different police stations to report him and although the next day police went to find him and arrest him, they could not find him.

The next day, on Valentine’s Day evening her ex-boyfriend attacked her outside her apartment. She called 911 afterward to tell them she had been stabbed 20 times by him, but only lived a few more hours.

The Tiana Notice Foundation was set up by her father and installs cameras outside people’s homes who are scared of their former partners. He tells his daughter’s story wherever he can, is pushing lawmakers to force perpetrators to wear GPS systems, like some do in Massachusetts, and his message is simple.

Men: treat the women in your life with respect

Women: protect yourself and stand up to abusive partners or former partners

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence Factsheet says that 1 in 12 women and 1 in 45 men will be stalked in their lifetime and that 81% of women stalked by a current or former intimate partner are also physically assaulted by that partner.

For more information please visit http://tiananoticefoundation.org/ and get involved.

Did you know that February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month? I didn’t. So now that you know, what can you do about it? And what exactly is dating abuse?

In the past, Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month was just the first week in February. Thanks to senators and the Vice President, this year is the first year it will be a full month. Visit this blog to watch Attorney General Tom Perelli discussing teen dating violence awareness.

The National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline says that “dating abuse isn’t an argument every once in a while, or a bad mood after a bad day. Dating abuse (or Relationship Abuse) is a pattern of controlling behavior that someone uses against a girlfriend or boyfriend. Abuse can cause injury and even death, but it doesn’t have to be physical. It can include verbal and emotional abuse – constant insults, isolation from family and friends, name calling, controlling what someone wears-and it can also include sexual abuse.”

Their site has personal stories, answers about what a healthy relationship is, and even  quizzes for those wondering if they are being abused or being abusive.

The helpline has a TON of resources including facts about dating abuse. These might surprise you.

Did you know that…

  • 1 in 5 teens who have been in a serious relationship report being hit, slapped or pushed by a partner.
  • 1 in 3 girls who have been in a serious relationship say they’ve been concerned about being physically hurt by their partner.
  • 1 in 4 teens who have been in a serious relationship say their boyfriend or girlfriend has tried to prevent them from spending time with friends or family; the same number have been pressured to only spend time with their partner.
  • 1 in 3 girls between the ages of 16 and 18 say sex is expected for people their age if they’re in a relationship; half of teen girls who have experienced sexual pressure report they are afraid the relationship would break up if they did not give in.
  • Nearly 1 in 4 girls who have been in a relationship (23%) reported going further sexually than they wanted as a result of pressure.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive dating relationship, please go to Loveisrespect.org or call 1-866-331-9474 or 1-866-331-8453 TTY. The site is safe and even has peer advocates available to live chat and answer any questions you have.

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