To prevent child abuse, adults must learn to recognize when people (whether other adults or older youth) act inappropriately, as children cannot recognize these behaviors or protect themselves.
Adults are responsible for ensuring that children have safe, stable, and nurturing relationships and environments, and they have a responsibility to speak up and/or report when a young man is hurt or abused.
The Washington State Department of children, youth and family states ten things any person could do to prevent child abuse:
- Volunteer your time: Get involved with other parents in your community. Help vulnerable children and their families. Start a playgroup to prevent child abuse.
- Discipline your children thoughtfully: Never discipline your children when you are upset. Give yourself time to calm down. Remember that discipline is a way to teach your child. Use privileges to encourage good behavior and time-outs to help your children regain control.
- Examine your behavior: Abuse is not just physical. Both words and actions can inflict deep, lasting wounds. Be a nurturing parent. Use your actions to show children and other adults that conflicts can be settled without hitting or yelling.
- Educate yourself and others: Simple support for children and parents can be the best way to prevent child abuse. After-school activities, parent education classes, mentoring programs, and respite care are some of the many ways to keep children safe from harm. Be a voice in support of these efforts to prevent child abuse in your community.
- Teach children their rights: When children are taught they are special and have the right to be safe, they are less likely to think abuse is their fault, and more likely to report an offender. This is an excellent way to prevent child abuse.
- Support prevention programs: Too often, intervention occurs only after abuse is reported. Greater investments are needed in programs that have been proven to prevent child abuse before it occurs - such as family counseling and home visits by nurses who provide assistance for newborns and their parents.
- Know what child abuse is: Physical and sexual abuse clearly constitute maltreatment, but so does neglect, or the failure of parents or other caregivers to provide a child with needed food, clothing, and care. Children can also be emotionally abused when they are rejected, berated, or continuously isolated.
- Know the signs: Unexplained injuries aren't the only signs of abuse. Depression, fear of a certain adult, difficulty trusting others or making friends, sudden changes in eating or sleeping patterns, inappropriate sexual behavior, poor hygiene, secrecy, and hostility are often signs of family problems and may indicate a childdren is being neglected or physically, sexually, or emotionally abused. Identifying these signs is crucial to prevent child abuse.
- Report abuse: If you witness a child being harmed or see evidence of abuse, make a report to your state's child protective services department or local police. When talking to a children about abuse, listen carefully, assure the child that he or she did the right thing by telling an adult, and affirm that he or she is not responsible for what happened.
- Invest in kids: To Prevent Child Abuse encourage leaders in the community to be supportive of children and families. Ask employers to provide family-friendly work environments. Ask your local and national lawmakers to support legislation to better protect our children and to improve their lives.
The earlier such interventions occur in children's lives, the greater the benefits to the kids (e.g. cognitive development, behavioral and social competence, educational attainment) and to society (e.g. reduced delinquency and crime). In addition, early case recognition coupled with ongoing care of child victims and families can help reduce reoccurrence of maltreatment and abuse and lessen its consequences.
It is important to talk with children about abuse and how to prevent it, to provide them with fundamental and necessary tools to protect them from this type of behavior. Thus, it is crucial to prevent child abuse to:
- Encourage children to speak up when they see or feel any inappropriate behavior.
- Show them that you will listen to anything they have to say, even if they talk about something embarrassing or something they have done wrong.
- Stay attuned to your children’s use of technology by modelling safe choices and behavior. The illusion of anonymity on these electronic mediums often leads to a breakdown of social rules and expectations that would be assumed if the interactions were face-to-face.
- Establish clear, firm guidelines about the use of technology and stick to them.
- Use the proper names of body parts. This knowledge gives children correct language for understanding their bodies, for asking questions that need to be asked and for telling about any behavior that could lead to sexual abuse.
Simple support for children and parents can be the best way to prevent child abuse. After-school activities, parent education classes, mentoring programs, and respite care are some of the many ways to keep children safe.