Child abuse is a hidden but significant problem in every community. During 2006, there were reports of child abuse and neglect involving over 75,000 children in Missouri. While only about ten percent of those reports were substantiated, it is probable that many more reports involve actual abuse that could not be proven. It is estimated that one out of every four girls and one out of every six boys will be sexually abused by their 18th birthday. Less than one in ten will tell. Child abuse does not recognize region, race, creed, socio-economic status or gender; it crosses all boundaries to impact every community and every person in Missouri.
Research clearly shows that individuals who are abused as children are far more likely to adverse health effects and behaviors as adults including smoking, alcoholism, drug abuse, eating disorders, severe obesity, depression, suicide, sexual promiscuity, and certain chronic diseases. Child abuse does not recognize region, race, creed, socio-economic status or gender; it crosses all boundaries to impact every community and every person in America.
A comprehensive approach to the prevention of child abuse is required with community programs that are targeted to different populations and reflect phases of the family life cycle. To cope successfully with their roles in the family, both adults and children require certain supports, training, and information. The term "prevention" is typically used to represent activities that stop an action or behavior. It can also be used to represent activities that promote a positive action or behavior. Research has found that successful child abuse interventions must both reduce risk factors and promote protective factors to ensure the well-being of children and families.
Missouri KidsFirst believes that adults should be taking proactive steps to protect children from abuse and neglect. It is unrealistic to think that a young child can take responsibility for fending off sexual advances or physical abuse by an adult. Adults are responsible for the safety of children. Adults are the ones who need to prevent, recognize and react responsibly to child abuse and neglect.
National Definitions for Child Abuse and Neglect
Child abuse and neglect often take place in the home and come from a person the child knows well—a parent, relative, babysitter, or friend of the family. There are four major types of child maltreatment. Although any of the forms may be found separately, they often occur together. Each State is responsible for establishing its own definitions of child abuse and neglect that meet Federal minimum standards. Most include the following:
- Neglect is failure to provide for a child’s basic needs.
- Physical abuse is physical injury as a result of hitting, kicking, shaking, burning, or otherwise harming a child.
- Sexual abuse is any situation where a child is used for sexual gratification. This may include indecent exposure, fondling, rape, or commercial exploitation through prostitution or the production of pornographic materials.
- Emotional abuse is any pattern of behavior that impairs a child’s emotional development or sense of self-worth, including constant criticism, threats, and rejection.
Missouri Child Abuse Definitions
The Missouri Child Abuse Law, Section 210.110 RSMo defines:
Abuse as any physical injury, sexual abuse, or emotional abuse inflicted on a child other than by accidental means by those responsible for the child’s care, custody, and control except that discipline including spanking, administered in a reasonable manner shall not be construed to be abuse; and
Neglect as failure to provide, by those responsible for the care, custody, and control of the child, the proper or necessary support, education as required by law, nutrition or medical, surgical, or any other care necessary for the child’s well-being.