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Wear a blue ribbon, support campaign

by Gale Horinbein, MSW, LISW-CP
Shaken Baby Syndrome Prevention Project Coordinator
About 900,000 children in the United States do not know what it is like to be safe and sound in their homes due to abuse and neglect, according to a 2005 study. In South Carolina, children are particularly vulnerable to these dangers.
Nationally, four children—of all races, genders and socioeconomic backgrounds—die each day as a result of abuse or neglect. South Carolina ranks among the worst states in terms of child welfare, according to a recently-released report by Every Child Matters Education Fund. The state’s 45th overall ranking was based on 10 child well-being standards, including poverty, child abuse, teen incarceration and premature deaths. South Carolina’s worst ranking was 50th in per-capita child welfare expenditures, the principal funding source for dealing with child abuse and neglect.
April has been designated Child Abuse Prevention Month, which is a time to focus on the protection and care of our most vulnerable and trusting.
Since its first presidential proclamation in 1983, Child Abuse Prevention Month has been observed each April to raise the public’s awareness of the devastating effects of child abuse and empower and encourage people to become involved and support families so that we can prevent all forms of child abuse and neglect from reaching our nation’s children. Throughout the month, the Blue Ribbon Campaign takes place to serve as a memorial to the children who were affected by abuse and neglect and also a reminder that we can all play a part in making child abuse prevention our business.
The statistics are alarming and bring to light the seriousness of this problem that affects not only children, but also families and society.
An estimated 3.3 million reports were made to child protective services nationally about the safety and well-being of approximately 6 million children. As a result of these reports, about 899,000 children were found to be victims of child abuse or neglect. In other words, a child is abused or neglected every 35 seconds in this country. Of these, 60 percent are neglected, more than 15 percent are physically abused, less than 10 percent are sexually abused, and less than 10 percent are emotionally maltreated.
Young children are most at risk for being abused and neglected. Infants represent the largest proportion of victims; almost 29 percent of the victims are 3 years old and younger, including newborns; and over a half of all victims are 7 years old or younger.
Child deaths are the most tragic results of maltreatment. In 2005, about 1,460 children died due to abuse or neglect. More than 40 percent of these deaths were attributed to neglect. Abusive head trauma or SBS (Shaken Baby Syndrome) is the leading cause of death of physically abused children. Sadly, children aged 3 years or younger accounted for approximately 77 percent of all child abuse and neglect fatalities.
Four of five victims are abused by at least one parent, and no matter how fatal abuse occurs, the perpetrators are the very individuals responsible for the care and supervision of these victims.
Experts believe many more cases go unreported and will never be brought to the attention of the state’s child protective agencies or law enforcement. This is unfortunate, since reporting abuse can help connect families with counseling and other services to relieve a family’s stress that, in turn, could save a life.
The impact of child maltreatment can be profound —far greater than the immediate, visible effects. Research shows that child maltreatment is associated with adverse health and mental health outcomes in children and families, and those negative effects can last a lifetime. The long-term effects can be physical, psychological or behavioral.
A history of child abuse or neglect has been associated with increased risk of mental illness, substance abuse, developmental disabilities and learning problems, social problems with other children and with adults, teen pregnancy, under-performance or failure in school, alcohol and other substance abuse, and domestic violence.
In addition to the impact on the child and family, child abuse and neglect affect various public systems, including medical and mental health, law enforcement, judicial, social services, and non-profit agencies, as they respond to the incident and support the victim. One analysis of the immediate and long-term economic impact of child abuse and neglect suggests that child maltreatment costs the nation up to $258 million per day, or about $94 billion a year.
These facts are distressing, but the good news is that child abuse is 100 percent preventable.
Although all the causes of child abuse and neglect are not known, research has identified several risk factors and protective factors associated with child abuse. Studies also have shown that multiple risk factors present greater risk. For example, lack of preparation or knowledge of critical issues surrounding parenting, financial or other environmental stressors, difficulty in relationships, stress of single parenting and depression or other mental health problems, can all lead to abusive or neglectful behavior.
These circumstances, combined with the inherent challenges of raising children, can result in otherwise well-intentioned parents causing their children harm or neglecting their needs.
By helping parents who might be struggling with any of these challenges, we can reduce the likelihood that their children will be abused or neglected. Prevention efforts build upon family strengths. Through prevention activities, such as parent education, home visitation, and parent support groups, many families are able to find the support they need to stay together, and care for their children in their homes and communities.
Child Abuse Prevention Month is an opportunity to highlight the role we can all play to support parents and families. 
This month, wear a blue ribbon and support the prevention of child abuse. To order blue ribbons, call 792-2975.
For information on local child abuse and neglect programs, contact Parents Anonymous at 747-0480.
To obtain more information on the Every Child Matters Education Fund, visit; Prevent Child Abuse,; S.C. Department of Social Services,; and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,

Ways to identify neglect, physical, sexual, emotional abuse
What Is Child Abuse?
  • Physical abuse: Includes beating, kicking, biting, shaking, throwing, stabbing, choking, burning, hitting or punching a child. Regardless of intent, physical abuse can result in anything from minor bruises to severe factures or death.
  • Neglect: Includes failure to provide for a child’s basic physical, emotional or educational needs. Leaving a young child alone or failing to provide medical care may be considered neglect. Exposure to domestic violence and inattention to the child’s emotional and physical welfare would be neglect.
  • Emotional abuse: May involve verbally abusive language, constantly criticizing, denigrating or insulting language; threats, rejection or withholding love from a child. This involves any attitude, behavior or failure to act that interferes with a child’s mental health and social development.
  • Sexual abuse: Includes rape, touching, fondling, or involving a child in pornography. It refers to any sexual act, including indecent exposure, with a child by an adult or older child.
Children who are physically abused may:
  • be watchful, as though preparing for something bad to happen;
  • nervous around adults, and become distrustful of other people;
  • have difficulty playing and/or making friends;
  • act aggressively toward adults and other children;
  • be unable to concentrate in school; becoming underachieving or overachieving;
  • arrive at school much earlier or leave later than other children.
Children who are sexually abused may:
  • behave differently when the abuse starts;
  • care less about their appearance, or their health;
  • talk or act sexually at too early of an age;
  • be secretive and stop talking about home-life;
  • start soiling themselves;
  • be unable to sleep;
  • suddenly find physical contact frightening; or
  • run away from home.
Children who are neglected or emotionally abused may:
  • have difficultly learning to talk;
  • find it hard to develop close relationships;
  • be overly friendly with strangers;
  • be unable to play imaginatively;
  • think badly of themselves; or
  • underachieve at school.


Friday, April 18, 2008
Catalyst Online is published weekly, updated as needed and improved from time to time by the MUSC Office of Public Relations for the faculty, employees and students of the Medical University of South Carolina. Catalyst Online editor, Kim Draughn, can be reached at 792-4107 or by email, Editorial copy can be submitted to Catalyst Online and to The Catalyst in print by fax, 792-6723, or by email to To place an ad in The Catalyst hardcopy, call Island Publications at 849-1778, ext. 201.