Child maltreatment is defined as abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, sexual exploitation or abandonment by the caretaker of the child. The caretaker may be anyone who is age 10 or older and entrusted with the child’s care. Child maltreatment occurs when the caretaker harms the child, lets harm come to the child, or fails to meet the child’s basic needs.
While the physical signs are the most apparent, child maltreatment encompasses more than just physical abuse. Emotional abuse and neglect, such as ignoring the child’s needs or making them feel worthless, can cause negative effects that remain present throughout the child’s entire life. The earlier abused children get help, the more likely it is for them to recover and break the cycle of abuse rather than perpetuate it, making it imperative to speak out about any form of suspected abuse.
Tips for Talking to an Abused Child
- Avoid negative reactions such as denial, shock or disgust
- Remember to stay calm and reassuring
- Let the child tell you what happened in their own words and avoid asking questions to ensure you are not pressuring/confusing the child
- Reassure the child that they did nothing wrong and it is not their fault
- If intervention may be unsafe, seek professional assistance
When You Should Call
If you or someone you know is experiencing child maltreatment and/or exhibiting any of the following warning signs, the Arkansas Crisis Center is here for you to provide emotional support and resources in your area. If someone is in immediate danger or you are unable to connect, please dial 9-1-1.