April is nationally recognized as Child Abuse Prevention Month. Child Advocacy Centers all over the country use this time to increase awareness and provide prevention information to the community. Locally, at the Child Advocacy Center of Niagara, we have many community events scheduled for the month of April.
- All Month Long – Help kick off our Family Fun Night Drive! We are collecting items to include in a Family Fun Night bag. If you would like to donate new items, such as small board or card games, puzzles, or snacks, please drop items off to the center.
- April 12 – Wear BLUE to help raise awareness! It is New York State’s wear BLUE Day. Take a picture and tag the CAC of Niagara. Use the hashtag #bandagainstchildabuse. You can also display pinwheels in your office!
- April 13 – Join us at the Niagara Falls Main Library after family movie day. We will have a table at the event to give out information to families starting at 11:00am.
- April 21 – Join us at the LaSalle Library in Niagara Falls along with Niagara University for Books, Balls, and Blocks at 11:00am.
- April 28 – Walk to End Child Abuse! This is the fifth annual Walk to End Child Abuse. Join us at 4:30pm at the Hyde Park Ice Pavilion, 911 Robins Dr. Niagara Falls, NY, for this free community event. Real life superheroes, community resources, Bikers Against Child Abuse and more! Visit our Facebook page for more information!
- April 28 – The Niagara Falls will be lit up BLUE for Child Abuse Prevention month starting at approximately 10:00pm.
Regardless of what month it is, we are always available to your organization if you would like to host a prevention training or presentation on child abuse. Please reach out to our Education and Outreach Coordinator at 716.285.0045. We offer many community presentations and trainings on child abuse prevention, healthy relationships, human trafficking, child abuse disclosures and more.
What else can you do for Child Abuse Prevention Month?
Learn the signs of child abuse! Child abuse includes physical abuse, maltreatment or neglect, sexual abuse, and commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking.
Indicators of maltreatment:
- Consistent hunger
- Lack of personal care
- Untreated medical needs
- No supervision
Indicators of physical abuse:
- Frequent injuries that don’t make sense
- Fear of going home or going with someone
- Injuries that appear on both sides of the body
- Destructive behavior
Indicators of sexual abuse:
- Sexual behavior beyond a child’s developmental age
- Sexual behaviors between children with an age gap
- Child using force, threats of coercion of sexual behaviors onto other children
- Excessing masturbation that doesn’t stop when redirected
- Difficult and/or paint when walking or sitting
There might not be any physical signs – 95% of physical exams show no signs of sexual abuse.
Behavioral changes that are new or sudden:
Please note that these are also signs of other trauma or stress in a child’s life such as divorce, death of a family member, bullying or witnessing violence.
- Problems in school
- Chronic headaches/stomach aches
- Changes to eating or sleeping patters
- Changes in hygiene
What to do if you Suspect Abuse?
If a child discloses abuse to you, stay calm. Children who disclose abuse may be looking to adults to see their reaction. Remember many abused children know their abuser and we never know what an offender might have said to a child.
Say Thank You
Thank the child for telling you. Tell them you are proud of them for coming to you and you’ll do your best to get them help. But don’t make promises. It’s important not to question the child or try to get details from them. We have trained forensic interviewers at the Child Advocacy Center who conduct interviews in a way that reduces traumatization while ensuring information is gathered for an investigation.
Make the Call
You do not need proof to report suspicions of child abuse! If you suspect abuse, call the New York State Child Abuse Hotline (24/7) 1-800-342-3720 or if the child is in immediate danger, call 911.
Help Prevent Child Abuse
Knowing the signs of child abuse are important but you can also help prevent child abuse by talking to the children in your life about body safety, boundaries and speaking to a safe adult if anything unsafe ever happens to them. Have children identify at least two safe adults they feel comfortable talking to. We recommend having a safe adult who lives with a child and one that does not. This could be a school counselor, teacher or community member.
Body safety discussions should be done on a regular basis to consistently teach children about what is safe and what is not. For younger children, you can explain that parts of their body covered by a swimsuit are private. No one should be touching private parts, taking pictures of their private parts or showing children pictures of other’s private parts.
Discussions around boundaries are equally as important. Teach children they have boundaries and those boundaries should be respected by adults, peers and older children. If a child is uncomfortable hugging, kissing, or sitting on someone’s lap, even if it is a family member, don’t force a child to do something that makes them uncomfortable. Children need to be taught that they can speak up and say no when it comes to their bodies.
For more information about child abuse indicators, or what to do if you suspect abuse, please contact the Child Advocacy Center!