eek and Mary Ellen was adopted. Shortly after
eek that are abused andeven killed at the hands of their parents, guardians and caretakers. What
is even more astounding is the number of children that are abused and it is
never even reported. According to the National Center on Child Abuse and
Neglect. “In 1997 about 3 million children in the United States were
reported as abused or neglected to government agencies that investigate
child abuse” (“Child Abuse”1). People who witness the child being abused
will normally do two things: make a phone call to help the child or turn
there heads the other way because they do not want to get involved.
How would one define child abuse? Child abuse, also referred to as child
maltreatment, is the result of physical or emotional trauma to a child
inflicted from a parent or an adult caretaker (“Child Abuse”1). Child abuse
does not only affect those of a certain race or wealth. It does not
discriminate from color, religion, sex or income. Child abuse can affect
wealthy families as well as poor families.
Child abuse is a cycle. Children who grow up in abused or neglected
environment are more likely to abuse their children than a child who grew
up in a healthy one. The cycle continues until it is broken by that child
or by someone who is willing to help the child. The first form of child
protection came from a group called Society for the Prevention of Cruelty
to Animals. Mary Ellen, an eight-year-old girl, stood up in the Supreme
Court of New York in 1874 and told her story of how she had never received
love from her mother. The only thing she received from her mother was daily
beatings and whippings. The social worker that was working on Mary Ellen’s
case turned for help to the founder of Society for the Prevention of
Cruelty to Animals because the court was not going to acknowledge child
abuse as breaking the law. The community activist that the social worker
called upon decided to use every resource he had to help convince the
court. They won. The mother went to prison and Mary Ellen was adopted.
Shortly after Mary Ellen’s case, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty
to Children in New York was formed (Morales 2). Mary Ellen’s case helped
open the public eye on child abuse in 1874.
There are several types of child abuse: physical, emotional, sexual abuse
and neglect. There are two types of neglect; physical and emotional.
Physical abuse is when a parent or caretaker is physically harming the
child, by beating, kicking or throwing them. “Physical abuse is 22% of all
substantiated cased of abuse”(“Physical Abuse” 1). Physical abuse is the
easiest form of abuse to identity.
The six physical indictors of abuse are bruises, burns, lacerations,
abrasions, skeletal, head, and internal injuries.
Bruising on a child’s body, when it is a result of abuse, is normally on
the body’s posterior and in unusual patterns. These are signs that the
bruises are not accidentally related when in clusters, bruising on infants
and multiple bruising in various stages of healing.
Second are burns on a child’s body are also done in unusual patterns.
Some signs of burns not being accident related are immersion burns:
doughnut-shape burns on the buttocks. Cigarette burns on the hands and
feet, rope burns from confinement, dry burns caused by irons are all signs
that the child is being abused.
Third are lacerations and abrasions. When it comes to the lacerations and
abrasions on the abused child’s body, it is usually on the lips, eyes, on
an infant’s face, on gum tissue caused by the parent force-feeding the
child, and cuts on the external genitals.
The fourth sign is skeletal injuries. Injuries include fractures of the
long bones from twisting and pulling, separation of bone and shaft, spiral
fractures, detachment of tissue of bone and shaft, and stiff and swollen
enlarged joints. Injuries like this are hard for a child to do on his or
The fifth indictors are head injuries. Head injuries include missing or
loosened teeth, absence of the hair, hemorrhaging beneath the scalp from
hair pulling, retinal hemorrhages from hitting or shaking the child and
nasal or jaw fracture.
The sixth form of physical child abuse is internal injuries. Out of the
six, internal injuries are not visible to the naked eye. It requires a
doctor’s examination and testing to see if the child has internal injuries.
For a doctor to determine if the injuries are a result of abuse he or she
looks for intestinal injuries from hitting or kicking, rupture of heart
related blood vessels and inflammation of abdominal areas. The doctor can
usually tell if it was an accident relate injury or if the child was abused
by the injuries he or she had received. That is if the child gets to the
hospital to be examined by a doctor (“Physical Abuse” 1).
Other forms of physical abuse are Shaken Baby Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol
Syndrome. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is the leading cause of mental retardation
in babies. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is a birth defect that develops
while the mother consumes alcohol while pregnant. As a result of the mother
drinking, alcohol will travel not only through her body but travels
straight through the placenta to the baby. When the baby is born, it is
more than likely it will suffer from low birth weight, have trouble feeding
and sleeping, and since the baby is no longer in the womb, it will suffer
from alcohol withdrawal.
The face of the newborn will be distorted and disfigured. The eyes are most
likely to be slit, the lips will be thinned, especially the upper lips, low
nasal ridge and small jaw line. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome can cause severe
neurological damage. The child can suffer from attention and memory
deficit, hyperactivity, and difficulty with abstract concepts and problem
solving. The infant’s body and organs never work properly and the child
could suffer from muscle, bone and joint problems. The genitals and heart
can be defected along with the kidneys. The vision, dental, hearing and
growth can be destroyed and mental retardation, behavioral problems and
epilepsy may occur. In severe cases of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, infants have
been known to have still born or early death during infancy (“Fetal Alcohol
Shaken Baby Syndrome is where the infant is picked up and shaken by the
parent or caregiver. The infant’s head is moved back and forth in fast
movement. The sudden whiplash motion can cause bleeding inside the baby’s
head, which in return causes pressure to build up on the brain. The brain
is then pulled apart, resulting in the injury to the infant. The muscles in
the brain are not fully developed yet and make the brain tissue extremely
fragile. Children up to the age of three are being reported with Shaken
Baby Syndrome. There are no outside signs of internal injuries, making it
hard for someone to notice until it is too late.
The injuries that an infant sustained are life changing when it comes to
Shaken Baby Syndrome. The injuries include brain swelling and damage,
cerebral palsy, mental retardation, developmental delays, blindness,
hearing loss, paralysis and even death. Shaken Baby Syndrome, unlike other
forms of abuse, can be accidental. Shaken Baby Syndrome happens when a
parent gets frustrated because the baby will not stop crying. It is
estimated that 25-30 percent of parents or caretakers is not aware of the
effects of shaking a baby. To prevent this, a parent or caretaker should
never touch the infant or toddler when they are frustrated or angry. Walk
into anther room or leave the child in the crib and take deep breaths to
help calm down (“Shaken Baby Syndrome” 1).
Emotional abuse is another form of child abuse. Emotional abuse is when a
child is not taken care of emotionally. The child feels neither love nor
like. The child’s positive development is part of the psyche. If the child
feels that they are a burden to the parent or caretaker, the child’s self-
esteem will be low. The parent or caretaker does not show any love to the
child. The parent or caretaker makes the child feel shamed, humiliated, and
even terrorized. There are five types of emotional abuse.
The first one is rejection. Rejecting a child normally begins at birth. The
mother or father does not bond with the infant. As a result of not bonding
the rejected feeling is passed to the child as it continues to grow. The
parent or caretaker may tell the child in a variety ways that they are
unwanted. They call the child names or tell them to go away or that they
are worthless. The parent or caretaker will not play with or hold the child
when the child needs it.
The second type of emotional abuse is ignoring the child. The parent
ignores a cry or a plea for help. The parent shows no affection for the
The third type is terrorizing the child. The parent makes the child afraid
of him or her so the child will not act up or get into trouble at a young
age. The parent may even laugh at or ridicule the child for showing normal
feelings in public.
The fourth type of emotional abuse is isolation. The parent does not allow
the child to play with other children or to even play with a pet. The child
is forced to stay in their room or in another room in the house. The child
is even forced to eat by him or her self.
The firth type of emotional abuse is corrupting. This is when a parent lets
a child do whatever the child desires. The child is allowed to use drugs or
alcohol. The parent allows the child to watch whatever they choose to watch
on television, too.
There are some observable signs of emotional abuse in children. Some
indicators are when children rocks themselves back and forth, sucks or
bites self, is inappropriately aggressive, is destructive to others,
suffers from sleep disorders, restricts play activities or experiences, and
demonstrates compulsion, obsessions, phobias, and/or hysterical outbursts.
There are some behavioral indictors that a child will typically show to
indicate the child is being emotionally abused. The child may say negative
statements about themselves. They may also be shy, passive, compliant, lags
in physical, mental and emotional development. They too may exhibit self-
destructive behavior, be highly aggressive and cruel to others, and be
overly demanding (“Emotional Abuse” 1).
Emotional abuse can be the cruelest type of abuse and can be the most
destructive as well. Emotional abuse of a child can destroy what a child
feels and harm their sense of self-worth.
Sexual abuse is another form of child abuse in today’s society. It is
becoming more open and public. In the past it was a hush, hush situation.
It is difficult to talk about infants and children being sexual abused, but
it happens every day. What is sexual abuse? Sexual abuse is any misuse of a
child for sexual pleasure. There are three categories that sexual abuse
falls into: non-touching, touching and exploitation.
The non-touching of a child is when an adult takes their pictures for
pornographic reasons, indecent exposure and exhibitionism, deliberately
exposing a child to sexual intercourse and masturbation in front of the
child. The touching sexual offenses include fondling the child, making the
child touch an adult’s sex organs, and any penetration of a child’s vagina
or anus by an object that does not have a medical purpose. The sexual
exploitation of a child is when the child is engaging in prostitution, in a
film, photographing or modeling pornography (“Sexual Abuse” 1).
There is a small check sheet that parents, teachers, doctors or any other
caretaker of the child can look at that has these signs of sexual abuse. In
a younger child they should look for compulsive masturbation, bed-wetting,
excessive curiosity about sex, altered sleep patterns, learning problems,
separation anxiety, overly compulsive behavior, developing fears and
phobias, sexually acting out with peers, becoming silent, developing
tension symptoms such as stomach aches and skin disorders, and becoming
In prepuberty and the teenage years, the signs can be stealing, running
away, starting fires, excessive bathing, being withdrawn and passive, girls
pulling up their skirts, sexual inferences in school artwork, teaching
others how to masturbate, becoming aggressive towards peers, succumbing to
periods of deep depression, falling grades, and alcohol or drug abuse. In
the older children sexual abuse indictors can be suicide attempts, early
marriage, running away, pregnancy, substance abuse, and getting in trouble
with the legal system. The physical indicators are bruises or bleeding in
external genitalia; complaints of painful or itching genitalia; difficulty
in sitting or walking; torn, stained or bloody underclothing; sexually
transmitted diseases and pregnancy, especially in early adolescence. These
signs are what to look for if you suspect a child of being sexually abuse.
If a child is sexually abused, when they grow up they normally have
troubled relationships with the opposite sex (“Sexual Abuse” 1).
Child neglect is a little different from the other types of child abuse. It
is also the most common of all child abuse. Child neglect is also referred
to as child maltreatment. Child neglect is when a parent or caretaker fails
to provide the most basic needs for a child. A child’s basic needs include
providing them with shelter, food, clothing, education, supervision,
medical care and the other basic needs they need to grow and develop to the
their physical, intellectual and emotional capacity.
There are four types of neglect: physical, educational, emotional and
medical. Physical neglect is when a parent or caretaker does not give a
child the necessary health care that he or she is in need of, child
abandonment, and no supervision. Educational neglect occurs when a child
does not attend school regularly and receives the special educational
training he or she needs. Emotional neglect is when a parent shows no
feeling toward the child. The parent fails to provide the psychological
care that the child needs.
Medical neglect is the failure to provide the appropriate medical care for
the child. Sometimes a religion gets in the way of providing the need of
medical care. These cases generally do not fall under the definition of
medical neglect; however, sometimes the states will obtain a court order
forcing medical treatment of a child in order to save the child’s life.
Child neglect is the most common of all types of abuse. Severe neglect can
lead to death because the child’s basic needs are not given to them. Child
fatalities due to child maltreatment are rising (“Neglect” 2). ” In 1997,
the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, NCANDS, reported that
there were an estimate of 1,196 child deaths that year due to child
neglect” (“Child Fatalities” 2).
Children are the most vulnerable group in our society. Child abuse is now
more widely spread. The increase in cases that are reported each year shows
that people are becoming more involved with children. The public news has a
lot to do with the increased numbers of child abuse being reported. The
public wants to help fight this awful abuse that children are facing in
today’s society. In 1874, Mary Ellen’s case helped to finally open up the
eyes of the court and make a law against child abuse. Up to then, the only
law for abuse was for animals. Before then, there was no law for child
abuse. The activist that formed the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty
to Animals helped and Mary Ellen from being further physically and
emotionally abused by her mother. Today, we are more capable of saving our
children from being abused. There are numbers of organizations out there to
help the abused children.
I recently bought a CD of Martina McBride’s Greatest Hits, and when I heard
this song I cried. This song fits almost perfectly with this subject:
She walks to school with a lunch she packed
Nobody knows what she’s holding back
Wearing the same dress she wore yesterday
She hides the bruises with linen and lace
The teacher wonders but she doesn’t ask
It’s hard to see the pain behind the mask
Bearing the burden of a secret storm
Sometimes she wishes she was never born
Through the wind and rain
She stands hard as a stone
In a world that she can’t rise above
But her dreams give her wings
And she flies to a place where she’s loved
Somebody cries in the middle of the night
The neighbors hear, but they turn out the lights
A fragile soul caught in the hands of fate
When morning comes it’ll be too late
A statue stands in a shaded place
An angel girl with an upturned face
A name is written on a polished rock
A broken heart that the world forgot
Repeat chorus (Bentley and Crosby)
Concrete Angel! Is that how children are to be remembered when they are put
into the ground by this unspeakable act of violence? Too many children in
today’s society are dying. This song is something to think about. When you
see a child that is being abused or you suspect that they are being abused,
please tell someone. You might be the only chance they have! The children
today are our future for tomorrow!
Bentley, Stephan and Rob Crosby. “Concrete Angel”. Martina’s Greatest Hits.
BMG Music. 2001.
Child Fatalities Fact Sheet.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
Seeking a Cure for Child Abuse. Alex Morales.
Shaken Baby Syndrome.