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  • Writer's pictureCarol L Hornbeck, LMFT

Reducing the Risk of Child Abuse

Updated: Apr 22, 2020

We all have a part in preventing and reporting child abuse

Since the United States government declared April National Child Abuse Awareness Month in 1983, secular and religious organizations have worked together to address the causes and effects of child maltreatment and neglect.

As a therapist, I witness the lifelong effects of emotional, physical and sexual abuse on children, and on adults who experienced trauma as youngsters. Increasingly we see that many cases of depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses can have roots in childhood experience.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, some of the factors that contribute to abuse are:

  • Lack of parental understanding of child development

  • Poverty and unemployment

  • Significant, chronic parental stress such as marital issues

  • Substance abuse

  • Parental isolation; lack of support from extended family

  • Violence between family members

  • Familial history of abuse

  • Mental or physical health issues

  • Community acceptance of violence

A look at this list supports the reality that child abuse occurs in every socioeconomic group, and consequently there is a role for everyone to play in reducing its occurrence.

Perhaps one of the most effective things the average person can do is simply to educate oneself about the causes and reach out to parents of young children who might be isolated and struggling. 

If you are a member of a congregation, ask the leadership about the needs of young parents and how you might help.

Be aware of young families in your neighborhood and take the time to connect with them.  After the birth of a new baby, parents have many needs for ongoing support, but sometimes have a hard time reaching out. Tasks like grocery shopping become much more complicated with each additional child, so your neighbor might appreciate your checking with them before you make a run to the store, to see if you can pick up items for them.

If you are a parent and have child abuse in your own past, be aware that this presents ongoing challenges for you as a parent.  Find someone to talk to about your past experience and be intentional about developing your parenting skills so that you do not continue the generational legacy of hurt.

For more ideas about what everyone can do to make the world safer for children, check out these links:

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