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Things you can do to Prevent Child Abuse

Girl hugging a teddy bear together with an adult reading a document.

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.

The Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Family outlines ten things any person can do to prevent child abuse:

  • Volunteer your time: Get involved with other parents in your community, helping vulnerable children and their families. Starting a playgroup can be a powerful preventive measure against child abuse.
  • Discipline your children thoughtfully: Avoid disciplining 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; words and actions can inflict deep, lasting wounds. Be a nurturing parent and 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 that they are special and have the right to be safe, they are less likely to blame themselves for abuse 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 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 child is being neglected or physically, sexually, or emotionally abused. Recognizing 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 child about abuse, listen carefully, assure the child that they did the right thing by telling an adult, and affirm that they are not responsible for what happened.
  • Invest in kids: To prevent child abuse, encourage community leaders to be supportive of children and families. Ask employers to provide family-friendly work environments and urge your local and national lawmakers to support legislation that protects children and improves their lives.

Early interventions in children's lives offer numerous benefits, such as improved cognitive development, enhanced behavioral and social competence, increased educational attainment, and a reduction in delinquency and crime. In addition, early case recognition coupled with ongoing care of child victims and families can help reduce the recurrence of maltreatment and abuse, lessening its consequences.

It is crucial to talk with children about abuse and how to prevent it, providing them with the fundamental and necessary tools to protect themselves from this type of behavior. Thus, it is essential 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 modeling safe choices and behavior. The perceived anonymity in online interactions can lead to a breakdown of social norms that might otherwise be upheld in face-to-face interactions.
  • Establish clear and firm guidelines for technology use and ensure they are consistently enforced.
  • Use the proper names of body parts. This knowledge gives children the correct language for understanding their bodies, asking questions that need to be asked, and reporting any behavior that could lead to sexual abuse.

Adults play a crucial role in ensuring that children have safe, stable, and nurturing environments. They have a responsibility to identify and report when a child is hurt or abused. Additionally, offering straightforward support for both children and parents through various avenues, including after-school activities, parent education classes, mentoring programs, and respite care, proves to be an effective strategy in safeguarding children's well-being and preventing abuse.

Stop Child Abuse

There are many ways you can get involved and make a difference to prevent child abuse. Take action and choose what works best for you.