Knowledge is critical to Prevention, Protection, and Healing
Understanding child abuse helps you be in a better position to both prevent abuse and know how to respond if abuse occurs. Here are answers to frequently asked questions about abuse. If you still have questions or need additional information, please call us at (843) 723-3600.
We are here to help.
What are the types of child abuse?
What can I do to help my child if they disclose abuse?
Victims of abuse are often scared to tell even the closest people in their lives. When a child trusts you enough to tell you about abuse, it is crucial for you to express the support and protection of your child. It is important to know that you do not have to investigate the abuse or find out all of the facts. Professionals whose job it is to talk with children in just these situations are there for that reason. If a child has been abused, feeling believed and supported by their caregiver is critical for both their protection and well-being. Next, call professionals who can help.
Should I ask my child if he or she has been abused? What should I say?
If you do not have any reason to believe that your child has been abused, it is most appropriate and helpful to give your child information rather than question them. For example, remind your child that as their parent it is your job to keep them safe and you want them to tell you if someone or something scares or worries them. Give them examples, such as “Some kids get scared of bigger kids because they bully them, or hit them. Some kids get scared because someone tries to get them to do something wrong, like take something that doesn’t belong to them. Or someone might try to touch them or make them touch another person on their private parts.” Ask your child if there might be other examples of things that scare or worry kids. Tell your child that you want to know if any of those things happen to them so that you can help stop it from happening and keep them safe. If you do have a concern about your child being abused, you can simply ask if someone has already done one of these things in the past.
Is spanking considered child abuse? Is there a difference in spanking with your hand and spanking with an object?
“Spanking” is defined differently by different people. It usually refers to physical discipline with an open hand. Physical abuse is generally defined by whether or not spanking (or any discipline) causes injury to a child. Whether the spanking is administered with a hand or an object, it can still result in injury to the child. Years of research and work with families have shown that spankings and other physical disciplines are not effective at managing behavior problems in the long term, and can have negative effects on children. For this reason, the American Academy of Pediatrics explicitly discourages physical discipline. Thankfully, there are other methods of discipline that are more effective and won’t injure the child. Physical punishment fact sheet.
Can a child consent to having sex with an adult or much older child?
No. Children are simply not mature enough to make an informed decision regarding having sex. In South Carolina, this includes anyone under the age of 16.
What type of person sexually abuses children?
There is no one set of characteristics that describes people who sexually abuse children. Sex offenders are represented in every socioeconomic, ethnic, religious, and racial group. We do know that over 90% of child sex offenders are someone that the victim and the victim’s family knows and trusts.
Wouldn’t a child who has been sexually abused be fearful of the offender?
Surprisingly, often the answer is no. People who sexually abuse children usually want to continue to have contact with the child so the abuse can continue. They also want the child to accept sexual behaviors as okay. For these reasons, many offenders show special attention to their victims, including acts of love and gifts (some people call this “grooming” behavior). Offenders may define the relationship and the child as special. Individuals who sexually abuse children often appear as loved and trusted adults in or close to the child’s family who plays a positive role in the child’s life.
Why wouldn’t my child tell me if he or she was abused?
Less than half of children tell about their abuse during childhood. There are many, many reasons that they do not tell. Abusers sometimes threaten their child victims or the children’s loved ones with harm if they tell about the abuse, or they tell the child no one will believe them. Even if not threatened, children may not tell because they are afraid bad things may happen in their family (e.g., someone may be harmed, get in trouble, or go to jail). They may feel afraid that they will not be believed or will be blamed for not stopping the abuse. They also are often hesitant to tell because they do not want to upset the loved ones in their lives.
Young children may not tell because they do not know what sexual or physical abuse is or that it is wrong. Older children may feel guilty due to accepting special attention and gifts or may not want to lose that attention.
Isn’t it better for my child to not talk about the abuse so he or she can forget about what happened?
Studies show that actively avoiding memories or reminders of the abuse may lead to worsened emotional or behavioral difficulties later in life. While avoiding issues of sexual or physical abuse may be more comfortable for adults, children may be left feeling responsible, ashamed, and confused. Abuse happens under conditions of secrecy. Openly talking about the abuse lets the child know that it is okay to tell and that the adults in the child’s life can handle this disclosure – even if it is hard. Communication is a critical tool in resolving the problem: it helps the child understand the abuse, clarify who is responsible, and to feel okay about him or herself.
My significant other has hurt me in front of my child; what effect will this have on him or her?
Domestic violence can teach a child that it is ok to hit or be hit. We want our children to be safe and learn that violence to them and/or from them is never acceptable. As a parent, you are your child’s role model and they learn so much from what they see, not just what they are told.
My children were in the other room when the violence occurred so that would not have an impact on them, would it?
It actually could. Hearing violence and aggressive language can be frightening to a child. Seeing injury to any caregiver also has a negative effect on a child.
What will happen if my child comes to Dee Norton?
Contact with the Dee Norton Child Advocacy Center and the family usually begins with telephone communication to set an appointment. A professional will meet with you upon arrival and help begin the process, and you also will meet individually with a professional to share your perspective of the concern. Another trained professional will interview your child. The length of the interview with the child can vary and may last from 15 minutes to over an hour. Most families spend about two to three hours for their initial appointment. A medical examination may be needed. If so, staff from the Medical University of South Carolina provide these services on-site at Dee Norton. These trained medical professionals specialize in providing examinations for children. The exam is non-invasive, and every effort will be made to make your child feel comfortable. An assessment of your children’s emotional and behavioral functioning is also available. This appointment will be scheduled when you are at the first appointment and will take place on a different day. Read more about our Services here.
Will my child have to testify in court?
It is possible. Certainly, the idea of court can be intimidating to children as well as adults. The goal is the protection of the child as well as the community. Many caregivers worry about the emotionalness of their child testifying in court. If a child is properly prepared for testifying, it can greatly reduce their anxiety and fear. Many children have felt empowered that they get their “day in court” to tell the judge what happened to them.