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When Do I Call the Police?
It is very unsettling to think about having to call the police, but it is something that you may very well be faced with at some point in life. Child abuse is something that law enforcement takes very seriously and adults that are of sound mind are required to report it to authorities. In many states you can be charged with a crime for not reporting child abuse. So, how do you know when you should make a report? The following guidelines will help you make that decision and who to contact.
The first thing is to determine what is child abuse is. Abuse varies from state to state and you will need to research what your state determines it to be. Ultimately, society as a whole wants to ensure that a child’s physical and emotional existence is held to a reasonable standard, but what is reasonable? “Reasonable” is relative and regarding abuse may carry a different meaning. So, how do you know? Most states clearly define what abuse is and especially what child abuse is, so the statutes are great standard to use. So, ask yourself if what you are observing clearly violates the law. If you are still unsure after reviewing your state’s laws, contact your District Attorney’s office and ask for guidance.
The second thing to consider is what you are observing harmful to a child physically or emotionally? Physical abuse is not just brushing or scrapes, but are those bruises and scrapes in a reasonable location? For example, it is common for a child to have injuries to any protruding part of their body especially on the front side of their body. Kids run, jump, skip, climb and fall and will get injuries regularly. Something you should consider is if there is a reasonable explanation for those injuries. When an explanation does not fully explain the injury there it could POSSIBLY be abuse. If you have further concern look to see if there are multiple injuries. If there are multiple injuries, are they at different stages of healing or are they on different surface planes? Let’s break that down. If a child gets a bruise on their face and then gets another bruise on their face five days later, there will be a significant difference in the two bruises. If you see two bruises that are totally different stages of healing then you will know that there was more than one incident. Does that mean they are being abused? Not necessarily, but it would make me want to look into it further. If there are multiple injuries on different planes or areas of the body, this might need further attention. For example, if you observe a child with a scrape on the knees and also the palms this would probably be a kid that fell forward and landed on their hands and knees. It would be reasonable to believe that was just accidental injury. But what if their was a scrape on the back of child’s neck and a bruise on the inside of their thigh? It might be reasonable to believe that abuse MAY have occurred.
Emotional abuse is a whole different issue because many times there is no physical evidence to prove there is abuse. Observation is key in situations involving this type of abuse. Watching from a distance and again comparing what you observe to what is reasonable. Speak with your local Child Protective Services to get a better understanding of actual emotional abuse and what they recommend you should do if you observe this abuse.
So, what do you do? Let’s say you observe what you believe is abuse and you believe that if the child is left in that environment it is reasonable they would be harmed further. Just like laws pertaining to abuse, each state may have different protocols for reporting abuse. However, there are steps you can take and know that abuse will be properly investigated. If in doubt and it is an emergency call 911. If it is not necessarily an emergency, but you believe that abuse is occurring, call a non-emergency line for your local law enforcement agency. Another agency you can contact is Child Protective Services.
In conclusion, child abuse is a very serious topic and should not be taken lightly. Children need our help because in most case they cannot defend or protect themselves. If there is ever a doubt, call the police. To let abuse continue because we were not sure is unacceptable and our children deserve better. If you are interested in attending a training to help identify child abuse, please let us know by clicking the Contact Us link.
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