April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and it should be everyone’s duty to educate themselves on the issue. In 2008, I was appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court as a Judge for the Circuit Court of Cook County. There, I was assigned to the Domestic Relations Division where I heard and ruled on thousands of cases involving child abuse. The stories were truly heartbreaking.
Determined to make an even greater impact and to continue protecting the rights of children, I retired as a judge and returned to family law, where I now serve as a Child’s Representative in Cook County and as Guardian ad Litem. In addition to protecting children through my legal work, I am also an advocate for adult education to break the cycle of violence.
The statistics of child abuse are alarming. Recent studies suggest that five children die every day from abuse, and over 70% of these children are under the age of three. Both boys and girls are susceptible to abuse, as 90% of abusers know the survivor in some way. Here are a few steps you can take to make sure you are doing everything you can to prevent this terrible crime.
1. Recognize Abuse
To prevent child abuse, you must recognize what abuse is. Physical and sexual abuse are obviously wrong, but neglectful parents can also do tremendous damage to a child. Kids who are emotionally bullied, ignored, or do not have basic needs provided are at a huge risk.
2. Recognize the Signs
Not only should you know the different types of abuse, but you also should be able to recognize the signs. Unexplained physical injuries, mood swings, hostility, depression, and fear of adults can all be signs of physical, sexual, or neglectful abuse.
3. Thoughtfully Parent
Critically examine your parenting style and the effect that it has on your children. Think about your discipline strategy, and if you are disciplining out of anger. Remember, discipline is meant to teach your child a lesson, not to harm them physically or emotionally.
4. Educate Yourself and Others
Learn more about the signs of child abuse, and what organizations you can support. Volunteer your time with these organizations. Support prevention programs at your local schools, and talk to other parents about what you know. If more of us speak up, we can have a huge effect on the lives and well-being of children.
5. Report Abuse
This is the most important step! If you suspect that a child is being abused, you must absolutely do something about it. You may be that child’s only resource. There are local hotlines for children and family service departments, or you could simply call the police who can direct you to the right place. If the child comes to you directly, be sure to praise them for confiding in you and affirm to them that they did the right thing. Even if you are not positive that abuse is occurring, it is much better to be safe than sorry.
At the Law Office of Michael Ian Bender, we believe “there is no excuse for child abuse!” April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, so take this time to educate yourself on this important issue, so you can make a positive difference in a child’s life.