APRIL 8 was Child Abuse Prevention Day in B.C., an opportunity to raise awareness about one of the most serious problems facing society and remind British Columbians that we all have a responsibility to keep children safe.
Each year, the Ministry of Children and Family Development receives approximately 30,000 calls from concerned citizens that a child or youth might be in need of protection. Child abuse can take several forms, including neglect or physical, sexual or emotional abuse.
“Child abuse isn’t easy to talk about, but we all need to act if we suspect a child is being harmed or neglected,” said Minister of Children and Family Development Stephanie Cadieux. “Whether you’re a doctor, teacher, neighbour or a bystander – if you think a child is being abused, calling VictimLink BC or the Helpline for Children can make a world of difference.”
B.C. residents can call the 24-hour Helpline for Children toll-free at 310-1234 – no area code is required. The helpline is also a great resource for children in crisis who don’t know where to turn. In addition, VictimLink BC provides service in more than 110 languages, including 17 North American Aboriginal languages, at 1 800 563-0808. Anyone can call – children or teenagers who need help, parents in crisis who are afraid they might hurt their children, or someone who knows or suspects a child is being abused or neglected. You can call anonymously if you prefer.
In June 2014, the B.C. government enacted changes to the Child, Family and Community Service Act to also recognize domestic violence as one of the reasons why children may need protection. The changes to the Act are a step forward in the way the ministry assesses and protects children and youth who are exposed to domestic violence, and also help to better support families facing intimate partner violence. According to Statistics Canada’s Family Violence in Canada – A Statistical Report (2012), 52% of domestic violence victims with children in 2009 reported that their children heard or saw assaults on them in the previous five years.
It’s important that everyone – including caregivers, teachers, service providers and community members – recognizes the signs that a child might be at risk of harm, and knows where and how to get help. The public also has a legal responsibility to report suspected child abuse or neglect.
“Together, we can stop child abuse – and work to prevent it before it happens – so B.C. kids have the best possible opportunities to thrive and succeed in life,” said Cadieux.
IF you suspect a child or youth you know is being abused or neglected, call 310-1234 (no area code) for information on supports and services that are available.
For more information on VictimLinkBC supports and services, call 1 800 563-0808 or visit: www.victimlinkbc.ca/
For more information on the indicators of abuse, how to report suspected abuse, and a range of child-welfare and child-protection resources, visit: www.mcf.gov.bc.ca/child_protection/index.htm
Learn the warning signs and what to do when a child may be at risk: Responding to Child Welfare Concerns: Your Role in Knowing When and What to Report. This resource is available in several different languages at: www.mcf.gov.bc.ca/child_protection/translated.htm
Information and resources on domestic violence are available through: www.saysomethingbc.ca
Child abuse can take different forms:
* Physical abuse is any physical force or action that results, or could result, in injury to a child. It’s stronger than what would be considered reasonable discipline.
* Sexual abuse is the use of a child for sexual gratification. It includes sexual touching, as well as non-touching abuse, such as making a child watch sexual acts.
* Emotional abuse is a pattern of destructive behaviour or verbal attacks by an adult on a child. It can include rejecting, terrorizing, ignoring, isolating, exploiting or corrupting a child.
* Neglect is the failure to provide for a child’s basic needs: food, clothing, adequate shelter, supervision and medical care. Neglect is the form of abuse most frequently reported to the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
Know the signs of abuse. Abused and neglected children almost always show signs of their suffering. Some of the most common signs include:
– Injuries – bruises, cuts, burns, bite marks, fractures – that are inconsistent with the explanation given.
– The presence of several injuries in different stages of healing.
– Fear of adults and lack of trust.
– Extremely aggressive or withdrawn.
– Attention-seeking behaviours.
– Difficulty sitting or walking.
– Loss of appetite.
– Age-inappropriate sexual knowledge.
– Unattended medical needs, constant hunger or poor hygiene.
Sometimes, a child who is being abused or neglected will tell someone they trust. If this happens to you:
– Stay calm.
– Listen to them.
– Let them know you believe them.
– Reassure them.
– Tell them you’re sorry it happened, and let them know it’s not their fault.
– Don’t promise to keep it a secret.
– Don’t say everything will be fine now. It may take some time before everything is fine again.
– Call 310-1234 (no area code required) for a list of resources and services that can help.