7 Warning Signs a Child Is Being Abused
Ministers must be vigilant when it comes to uncovering and addressing this problem.
News about child abuse is never good. When it involves a church, though, it can be devastating. When children are abused in church, the trust of parents is broken and the innocence of a child is shattered. Ministers must be vigilant when it comes to uncovering and addressing this problem.
Child abuse comes in different forms. The term that often comes to mind is sexual harm. But children may also suffer physically or emotionally.
Identifying when a child has been hurt is the first step. Leaders should be aware of signs of child abuse. Here are seven of the most common.
If you notice a child is reluctant to engage with other children and especially adults, it may just be shyness. Or you may be seeing a sign of abuse. Coping with the stress and fear of abuse makes some children cut off from those around them.
2. Changes in Behavior or Personality
Look for changes in how a child acts. Are they depressed when they used to have a bubbly personality? Are they being more rebellious or defiant? Although often natural in certain stages of a child’s development, they may also signal acting out in response to abuse.
3. Frequent Absences
Parents may keep children at home to hide obvious signs of abuse, like a bruise or a cut. They may also try to cut the child off from those who may identify and report abuse. If a child is frequently absent, don’t be afraid to reach out to parents for an explanation.
If a child tells you they are being harmed, believe them. Take their word for it. And follow the reporting guidelines mandated by law.
4. Reluctance to Go Home
On the other hand, the child may not want to leave. Reluctance to go home may indicate that they fear their environment and want to stay away as long as possible. Make a mental note if you see this type of behavior.
5. Unexplained Injuries
It’s okay to ask questions about injuries. If parents are reluctant to answer, it may be a sign they are hiding something. And if the given explanation doesn’t match the injury, they may be lying. An unexplained injury may also be a sign of self-harm, a coping mechanism that some children use when abused.
6. Advanced Sexual Knowledge
Any child that talks about sexuality should raise a red flag, but especially if it is inappropriate for their age. Although they may not have been sexually abused, they may have been exposed to pornography or sexually graphic material in the home.
7. Saying They are Being Abused
If a child tells you they are being harmed, believe them. Take their word for it. And follow the reporting guidelines mandated by law. Never assume they are making it up. And always follow up when a child informs any leader about a form of abuse.
If church leaders are on the lookout for signs of abuse, many of these situations can be halted or cut short. It’s all about the life and wellbeing of the child.