Abuse does not come in one form.
Victims can endure a variety of types of abuse. Abuse can be classified as physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and neglect. Every child reacts differently to abuse and noticing sudden changes in their behavior is usually the first sign that is noticed by others.
Pine Hills Advocacy Center in Ruston has counselors, forensic interviewers, and other staff and volunteers who are trained to recognize signs of abuse in children.
Julia Summersgill, director of Pine Hills, said children who are coming to the center have either revealed that they are victims of abuse, or someone suspects the child of being a victim of abuse.
“Every child reacts differently to abuse, especially depending on the type of abuse that the child is experiencing,” Summersgill said. “There are a few stereotypes that are associated with most child abuse victims.”
These stereotypes include when a child shows sudden changes in behavior or school performance, when a child is always watchful, as though preparing for something bad to happen; when a child suddenly becomes secretive and isolated; or when a child begins not to care about everyday hygiene.
“Abuse is life changing for victims, and an abuser oftentimes robs their victims of their ability to speak out for themselves,” Summersgill said. “Adults who suspect or observe any type of abuse can save the life of child by simply speaking out.”
Summersgill said all children have the right to live in an environment free from abuse.
“Children and adolescents spend a large portion of their time in school, which gives educators more access to students than most other professionals,” she said. “Teachers and school staff often play a crucial role in identifying behaviors in children that might be being abused or bullied, and these adults are mandated to report any suspected abuse.”
If anyone suspects abuse of a child, Summersgill said reporting suspected abuse is the most important step someone can take to protect children.
Reports can be made to the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) Statewide Hotline: 1-855-452-5437 (1-855-4-LAKIDS). Reporters can remain anonymous.
When making a report of suspected abuse please be prepared to provide the following information if you have it:
- Child’s name, age and address
- Brief description of the child
- Current injuries, medical problems or behavioral problems
- Parents’ names and names of siblings in the home
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