By Ashley Rios, LCSW
As Child Abuse Awareness Month ends, we focus on a faith-based awareness initiative, Blue Sunday, which took place April 28.
Blue Sunday began in 1994 with 20 churches participating. Today, more than 7.4 million churches across five continents participate in Blue Sunday. On this day, faith-based communities are encouraged to take time in their services to pray for victims of child abuse and bring awareness to an issue that impacts 175 children daily in Texas.
Child abuse, including sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse and neglect, does not discriminate; children and families from all socioeconomic groups, races, ethnicities and religions can be effected. For some child victims of abuse, faith plays a role in their healing process. Many children and adolescents find comfort and support in their faith-based communities after experiencing a traumatic event.
Faith-based communities and all adults can also advocate for child abuse victims by becoming familiar with the signs of child abuse and alerting appropriate agencies of suspected or known abuse. Signs of abuse include:
1. Unexplained injuries: Visible signs of physical abuse can include bruises, marks or burns in shapes and patterns of objects. Unconvincing explanations for a child’s injuries may also be heard.
2. Changes in behavior: Abuse can lead to changes in a child’s behavior. Children may become scared, anxious, depressed, withdrawn or more aggressive.
3. Returning to earlier behaviors: Abused children may revert to behaviors from earlier stages of development. For example, thumb-sucking, bed wetting, fear of the dark or strangers.
4. Fear of certain places or people: Abused children may express apprehension or anxiety about leaving school, or about going places with the person who is abusing them.
5. Changes in eating: Stress, fear and anxiety caused from abuse can lead to changes in a child’s eating patterns which can cause weight gain or weight loss.
6. Changes in sleep: Abused children may experience frequent nightmares or have trouble falling asleep which can lead to a tired appearance or fatigue.
7. Changes in school performance and attendance: Abused children may have trouble concentrating in school, and have excessive absences, at times due to adults trying to hide possible injuries.
8. Lack of personal care or hygiene: Abused and neglected children may appear uncared for and present with body odor, appear dirty, and lack sufficient weather appropriate clothing.
9. Risk taking behaviors: Adolescents experiencing abuse may engage in high risk activities including using drugs and alcohol.
10. Inappropriate sexual behaviors: Children who have experienced sexual abuse may exhibit overly sexualized behavior or use explicit sexual language.
If you know or suspect a child is experiencing abuse report at 1-800-252-800 or at www.txabusehotline.org.
All children have the right to grow, to be happy and healthy, and to reach their full potential in a world free of abuse. This Blue Sunday we can join our faith-based communities in praying for children and families impacted by child abuse and commit to believing and supporting victims.
The following article is part five of a five-week series focusing on raising awareness about sexual assault and child abuse. April was Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Awareness month.