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Child Abuse Awareness Month

Posted 4/26/2013   Updated 4/26/2013 Email story   Print story


by Anne Owen
Minot Air Force Base Public Affairs

4/26/2013 - MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- It is the month of April. It means many things to people: taxes due, spring cleaning, the end of Shamrock shake month at McDonalds, etc. In terms of theme months, many great causes are associated with the month of April--Sexual Assault Awareness, Month of the Military Child, and it is also Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month. It is in this vein that this article is being written. Millions of children are suffering from a hidden epidemic of child abuse and neglect. Every year approximately 3.3 million reports of child abuse are made in the United States involving nearly 6 million children (a report can include multiple children). The United States has the worst record as an industrialized nation, losing five children every day due to abuse-related deaths. The grim facts regarding children who are abused in our country include the following:

· A report of child abuse is made every ten seconds.
· More than five children die every day as a result of child abuse.
· Approximately 80 percent of children that die from abuse are under the age of four.
· It is estimated that between 50 to 60 percent of child fatalities are due to maltreatment and are not recorded as such on death certificates.
· More than 90 percent of juvenile sexual abuse victims know their perpetrator in some way.
· About 30 percent of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children, continuing the horrible cycle of abuse.
· About 80 percent of 21 year olds that were abused as children met criteria for at least one psychological disorder.
· The estimated annual cost of child abuse and neglect in the United States for 2008 is $124 billion.
· In 2011, the number of maltreatment referrals for the United States Air Force was 6,298.
· Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education, including on Minot AFB.

While the above speaks mostly to the national problem of abuse and neglect, unfortunately our military children are not immune to this suffering. Multiple studies, including ones by Helfer and Kempe, and reported by U.S. Air Force Capt. John A. Shwed, cite statistics stating that our military children are suffering at a higher rate than their civilian counterparts, with many factors contributing to this phenomenon. The Department of Defense defines child abuse as "injury to, maltreatment of, or neglect of a child so that the child's welfare is harmed or threatened." The studies suggest increased risk factors, which are ones that we see here in Minot every day as part of our high-tempo operations and location: isolation from extended family, involuntary relocation, financial hardships, stress, long work hours and lengthy absences due to temporary duty assignments and deployments. As far as military children and their safety on our base, Minot AFB has the highest rate of substantiated cases of child maltreatment in Air Force Global Strike Command. However, while our numbers are high, we are showing a decrease in numbers of reported cases of child maltreatment over fiscal year 2012.

A number of our child maltreatment cases here at Minot AFB deal with neglect, mostly due to lack of proper supervision (the supervision guidelines are included for informational purposes), with cases of physical, sexual and emotional abuse rounding out the rest of the substantiated cases. If there is already a history of domestic violence in the family, statistics state that child maltreatment can occur as much as two times as often as in families with no prior history. Even just being exposed to parental violence has numerous short and long term impacts on children and can be substantiated as emotional abuse.

This is the reality of what is happening here at Minot AFB. Naturally, it raises the question: What can we do as a community to turn the tide, protect our children and prevent these cases from occurring? First and foremost, be aware and involved. Be able to recognize the signs of child abuse so that you can help a child in danger. What to watch for includes changes in behavior; sudden disinterest in things that used to excite or interest them; fear of people that was not present previously; regression, for example, beginning to wet the bed again after already mastering the skill; school grades dropping; and isolating themselves from friends. These are by no means all the signs, nor do any of these automatically mean that a child is being abused. They are warning signs which should trigger some form of intervention. Some examples of actions that would be considered child abuse are:
Neglect: Leaving an underage child unsupervised at home or in a vehicle while running a quick errand, or leaving a young child alone in the bathtub.

Physical: Hitting a child with a hand, belt or other object leaving bruises, cuts or welts or breaking bones, pushing, shoving, or putting alcohol in a baby bottle so the child will sleep.
Emotional: Telling a child that they are no good and should never have been born, or engaging in acts of domestic violence in front of a child.
Sexual: Inappropriate sexual behavior with a child, and touching inappropriately or making the child participate in any type of sexual act.

There are many opportunities for families in crisis to get help. The Airman and Family Readiness Center has counselors available to help adults who are struggling. The Family Advocacy Program offers classes in Anger Management, Stress Management and healthy parenting -- and other support for those in need. Anyone, including children, can receive counseling services through the Behavioral Health Optimization Program located in the Personal Reliability Program and Family Practice clinics. To utilize those services, simply call the Minot AFB clinic appointment line at 701-723-5633 and inform the clerk that you want to schedule an appointment.

If you believe that you know a family in crisis, please talk to them about getting help, or call for them. Should you witness an act of violence, call 911 or Law Enforcement for immediate assistance. If you know a child who is in crisis, please contact Family Advocacy at 701-723-5096 or the child's school.

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