Education

Statistically speaking, one in four girls and one in six boys will be abused by their 18th birthday. In the state of Texas, there have been over 63,000 confirmed victims of childhood sexual abuse.

Child abuse and neglect are widespread and devastating, affecting the youth of our community. Perhaps a child you know has fallen victim to abuse and/or neglect. Identifying and reporting such instances is vital to fighting against child abuse.

One of the most meaningful and impactful things you can do to help a child abuse victim is recognizing the abuse is taking place. One sign of abuse may not indicate abuse, but repeated or combined signs could warrant an investigation. Therefore, recognizing and reporting abuse is essential to protecting the children in the Rio Grande Valley, the state of Texas, and the United States.

Children Served by City and County FY2019

Children Served in FY2019

If you have reason to suspect child abuse, it is imperative that you report it. To report suspected abuse, call your local law enforcement at 9-1-1, or reach out to the Child Protective Services hotline at 1-800-252-5400. This number is available 24/7 and is toll free.

Reporting suspected child abuse is the most important thing you can do to protect child victims. The more information you are able to include in your report, the more effective law enforcement, the District Attorney’s office, CPS, and the CACHSC can be.

You should include:

  • A location where the child can be found
  • Phone numbers
  • The child’s age
  • Any current injuries
  • Any emotional and/or behavioral problems witnessed
  • Information for siblings or other children in the home

Be as specific as possible. Do not alert the parents or guardians of the suspected victim, as this could put the child in danger. Call 9-1-1 if you think the child is in immediate danger.

1. Physical Abuse

The result of an individual taking an action that results in substantial physical harm, or the individual makes a threat of such harm.

Failing to prevent someone from committing such an act constitutes as physical abuse.

2. Neglect

Leaving a child in a situation where they are exposed to danger without arrangement of necessary care. Danger could be physical or mental in nature.

A parent or guardian’s intent not to return a child to their other parent constitutes as neglect.

3. Emotional Abuse

Results when an individual inflicts mental or emotional injury to a child. Emotional abuse results in an observable and material impairment in the child’s growth and/or psychological function.

Allowing a situation in which such harm could occur constitutes as emotional abuse.

4. Sexual Abuse

Any sexual conduct that is harmful to a child’s emotional, mental, or physical well-being.

This may include:

  • Indecency with a child
  • Sexual assault
  • Aggravated sexual assault
  • Failure to make reasonable efforts to prevent such abuse
  • Compelling or encouraging a child to preform sexual acts, allowing or engaging in photographing of such acts, and/or depiction of a child in an obscene or pornographic way constitutes as sexual abuse

To help prevent child abuse, you need to know the signs and symptoms of child abuse. There are both physical and behavioral signs of abuse, such as:

Physical Abuse

  • A lack of reaction to pain
  • Frequent unexplained or inadequately explained injuries, including bruises, cuts, black eyes, fractures, and burns
  • Burns or bruises in a pattern that suggests the use of an instrument
  • Complaints of soreness or discomfort when moving
  • Evidence of delayed or improper treatment of injuries
  • Fear of going home or seeing parents
  • Passive or withdrawn behavior
  • Frequent complaints of pain unaccompanied by obvious injuries
  • Injuries after an absence of several days
  • Aggressive, destructive, disruptive, or self-destructive behavior

Neglect

  • Consistent hunger, begging or stealing food
  • Lack of personal cleanliness
  • Obvious malnourishment, including inadequate nutrition
  • Medical needs such as eyewear or dental care left unattended
  • Lack of supervision for long periods of time
  • Distended stomach, emaciated
  • Torn or dirty clothes
  • Frequent absences or tardiness at school
  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Reports that there is no caretaker in the home
  • Extreme loneliness or need for affection

Emotional Abuse

  • Antisocial, destructive behaviors
  • Speech disorders
  • Substance abuse
  • Developmental delays
  • Delayed physical development
  • Ulcers, asthma, severe allergies
  • Habit disorders including rocking, sucking, and biting

Sexual Abuse

  • Pain, swelling, or itching in the genital area
  • Difficulty walking or sitting
  • Torn, stained, or bloody underclothes
  • Significant weight change
  • Major change in normal behavior or mood
  • Suicide attempts (especially amongst adolescents)
  • Extreme fear of being alone with adults, especially with regards to one gender
  • Fear of physical contact, closeness
  • Sexual victimization of others
  • Excessive seductiveness, premature understanding of sex, or inappropriate sex play
  • Sudden refusal to participate in physical activities
  • Sudden refusal to change for gym
  • Let your children know they are personally safe with you.
  • Let your children know that they can tell you anything.
  • Tell your children you love them and that it is your job to keep them safe.
  • Encourage your children to tell you if someone makes them feel sad or bad.
  • Let your children know that you are there to help them.
  • Let your children know that you will always believe them.
  • Teach your children that their body is their own.
  • Remind your children that hugging and kissing others is their choice.
  • Talk to your teenager(s) about more challenging subjects.
  • Ask your teen what they would do if someone tried to do something they felt was wrong, or if someone tried to make them do something they were not comfortable doing.
  • Ask your teen if they would feel comfortable telling you about something that was making them feel scared or anxious.
  • Remind your teen that there are people in the world that treat children/teens badly.
  • Reassure your teen that they can tell you if anything happens to them.
You can protect your children by discussing child abuse and educating them on child abuse and neglect.

  • Ask your children’s school or camp about policies in place to protect your children.
  • Ask about policies surrounding adults being alone with your children.
  • Ask about screening practices and background checks.
  • Discuss internet dangers with your children.
  • Ensure your children’s device is always in your view when they are working on it.
  • Teach your children not to share personal information such as:
    • First and last name
    • Age
    • Home address
    • School name/address
  • Only allow your children to speak to their friends and classmates you have met.
  • Teach your children to be aware of child predators.