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In Other Words: We have a responsibility to prevent child abuse

According to statistics released by Prevent Child Abuse America, the nation's leading child abuse prevention organization, each year more than 3 million children in the United States are reported abused or neglected. Approximately 1 million of these cases are confirmed. While it is important to take note of these statistics and learn from them, it is essential that we as a community prevent child abuse and neglect from happening in the first place. That is what April's observance of Child Abuse Prevention Month is all about. The following information was obtained through the International Child Abuse Network (Yes ICAN).

Simply stated, child abuse is the bad treatment of a child under the age of 18 by a parent, caretaker, someone living in their home or someone who works with or around children. Abuse of a child is anything that causes injury or puts the child in danger of physical injury. Child abuse can be physical (such as burns or broken bones), sexual (such as touching of private parts or incest), or emotional (such as belittling or calling the child names). Neglect happens when a parent or responsible caretaker fails to provide adequate supervision, food, clothing, shelter, medical attention, education or other basic needs a child might have. Child abuse is any action (or lack of) which endangers or impairs a child's physical, mental or emotional health and development. Child abuse occurs in different ways. All forms of abuse and neglect are harmful to the child.

Child abuse may be:

• Physical: hitting, shaking, burns, human bites, strangulation.

• Emotional: constant disapproval, belittling, constant teasing.

• Sexual: fondling, the showing of private parts by an adult, sexual intercourse, oral and anal sex, forcing a child to watch while others have sexual intercourse, incest, pornography.

• Neglect: absence of adequate food, shelter, emotional and physical security, medical care and educational support.

• Physical abuse: any physical injury to a child that is not accidental. Emotional and psychological abuse is when a child is not nurtured and is not provided with love and security.

• Psychological abuse: when children are not provided with the necessary environment to develop mentally and or emotionally.

• Sexual abuse: a child is involved in any sexual activity with an adult or another child who is either older or more powerful.

• Neglect: depriving a child of their basic needs. These include food, clothing, warmth and shelter, emotional and physical security and protection, medical and dental care, cleanliness, educational support and supervision.

Keeping children safe is the responsibility of every adult in our community. If you suspect that a child you know or you are someone who is experiencing any of these types of abuse, please call the Department of Social Services, Child Protection Services, at 995-8000 or law enforcement at 911.

If you are concerned about the welfare of an abused and neglected child, there is something you can do. Volunteering to become a Child Advocate through the First Circuit CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) Program will give an abused and neglected child a voice in court and a chance at a normal, healthy, fulfilling life.

April's observance of Child Abuse Prevention Month is an appropriate way to remind ourselves of our collective responsibility to prevent the abuse and neglect that robs so many children of their childhood, sense of security, well-being and their future. Together we can make a difference in the life of a child.

Brenda Schulte is executive director of the First Circuit CASA, or Court-Appointed Special Advocate, Mitchell.

In Other Words features opinions from local and other contributors who have areas of special interest or expertise. Material shouldn't exceed 600 words and can be sent to: The Daily Republic, 120 S. Lawler, Mitchell, S.D., 57301. Not all submitted material will be used.

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