1. Know the Signs of Child Abuse

An important first step to preventing child abuse and neglect is recognizing its many forms and knowing the signs, so you can recognize and report abuse if you suspect it. Signs of abuse can include unexplained injuries, appearing unkempt or malnourished despite having access to community resources, fear of going home or reluctance to be with a certain person, exhibiting problematic sexual behaviors, or unusual changes in behavior such as changes in mood or school behavior. When we learn more about the dynamics of child abuse, we can start to end abuse in every community, for community members of all ages.  

2. Report Suspected Abuse 

Adults play an important role in keeping children safe and protecting them from abuse, so it’s important to report abuse if you suspect it is happening. In Texas, adults 18 years old and older are required by law to report suspected child abuse within 48 hours of their first suspicion that a child has been or may be abused or neglected (Texas Family Code § 261.101(b)). You can make a report by contacting the Texas Abuse Hotline at 1-800-252-5400 or call 911 if you suspect the child is in immediate danger. For more information, visit www.TXAbuseHotline.org. 

3. Talk to Kids About Boundaries and Consent 

It’s important to start conversations about boundaries and consent with children from an early age, even if it feels uncomfortable for caregivers. By starting these conversations early and encouraging open lines of communication, we empower children to share their thoughts and feelings, and instill a sense of agency over their own bodies. This can look like teaching children that it’s okay to say “no” when they don’t want to be touched, including when it comes to hugs or other forms or physical contact from family and friends. These conversations not only help children develop a healthy understanding of consent, but also lay the foundation for respectful relationships as they grow older. 

4. Talk to Kids About Body Safety 

Talking to kids about body safety involves not only teaching them about boundaries and autonomy, but also empowering them with accurate language. Talk to children about which parts of their bodies are considered “private” that other people should not touch, with exceptions – such as caregivers helping with hygiene or doctor appointments – and let them know that they should share with you if something makes them uncomfortable or someone touches a private part of their body. Use anatomically correct terminology for body parts, so that children can have accurate language if they disclose something inappropriate has happened to them. Using vague or euphemistic terms can lead to misunderstandings or misinterpretations, potentially hindering effective intervention. 

5. Understand Risks & Myths  

Child abuse is a complex issue with various risks and misconceptions. One prevalent myth is the notion of “stranger danger,” which suggests that children are primarily at risk from strangers. While it’s important to teach children about safety in public spaces, statistics show that most abuse cases involve perpetrators known to the child or their family, such as family members, friends, or acquaintances. This misconception can obscure the reality that abusers often manipulate trust and use proximity to gain access to children.  

It’s also important to dispel the myth that child abuse mostly happens in specific types of families. Child abuse can happen in families of any background, culture, or economic status.  

By dispelling myths and addressing risks directly, caregivers can better protect children from abuse and create safer environments for them to thrive. Additional information regarding child abuse and Roxanne’s House Services can be found at https://www.hcwc.org/learn/#child-abuse.  

Authors

  • Kirsten Brotze

    Kirsten is a water bug and “lazy adventurer” whose passions include social justice, deep conversations, being outside, and taking naps. She is the Prevention Educator for Hays County at HCWC, where she provides resources and awareness for healthy relationships, intimate partner violence, and sexual assault to adolescents and the community. Kirsten believes we can create safer communities by encouraging empathy and providing education to prevent violence and injustice. Kirsten graduated with her BA from the University of Colorado in Boulder and is hopeful to obtain her master's in professional counseling in the future. Kirsten spends most of her free time in her garden with her cat and two dogs, listening to audiobooks, swimming, napping, or planning the next camping trip.

  • Kiara Nicholson

    Kiara is a full-time cat lady with a passion for social justice. At HCWC, she is the Primary Prevention Coordinator – facilitating conversations with adolescents and adults on fostering healthier relationships and ways to make the world a safer, more equitable place. Kiara is a proud alum of Texas State University where she received her bachelor’s degree in Applied Sociology. Her passions include social change, youth activism, LGBTQ activism, and crafting. She doesn’t like taking pictures, but she does love Bitmojis.