The following was published in the Cincinnati Enquirer on Saturday, April 28th, 2012.
Six children every minute. Three million every year. Those are the staggering statistics behind reports of child abuse and neglect in this country. Worse still, every day five of those children will die at the hands of their abusers.
While April is designated as National Child Abuse Prevention Month, we deal every day at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center with the stark realities and enduring pain of physical and sexual abuse. But with the development of effective, evidence-based identification and treatment and the abuse prevention work within our community, we also witness protection and healing.
We know that the impact of abuse can reverberate throughout a child’s life. In addition to the heavy physical and psychological toll, abused and neglected children face greater risk of behavioral problems, school failure, drug abuse and teenage pregnancy. Trauma from abuse can lead to depression and other mental health problems, and it can cause later heart disease, diabetes and other physical illnesses.
The repercussions of abuse also extend beyond the home, to society. Abused and neglected children are 59 percent more likely to be arrested as juveniles, 28 percent more likely to be arrested as adults and 30 percent more likely to commit violent crimes. From a financial standpoint, the estimated lifetime cost associated with one year of child abuse cases is $124 billion, according to a recent study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In treating the physical, emotional and social problems stemming from child abuse, The Mayerson Center for Safe and Healthy Children at Cincinnati Children’s is pioneering nationally recognized, evidence-based treatments – those supported by scientific research and demonstrated to reduce trauma symptoms. The Mayerson Center not only treats victims of abuse and neglect, but also provides national and international training to child-abuse professionals.
Ensuring that every child has the opportunity to grow up in a safe environment requires a shared commitment of individuals and organizations within our community. Striving to keep children safe, our Child Abuse Team collaborates with strong partners in Hamilton County. Working with Hamilton Co. Job and Family Services, the Cincinnati Police Department, the Hamilton Co. Sheriff and the Hamilton Co. Prosecutor’s office, we are able to identify, keep safe and treat many child-abuse victims.
Prevention remains our best hope for protecting children from abuse and neglect. While physical abuse often leaves the most visible signs of trauma – burns, bruises, broken bones – sexual and psychological abuse and neglect also leave deep and lasting scars. You can make a difference in a child’s life by learning to recognize signs of abuse. A comprehensive list of early signs of abuse can be found online at The Mayerson Center at Cincinnati Children’s webpage and from The National Child Traumatic Stress Network.
While April is proclaimed National Child Abuse Prevention Month, I challenge our community to raise awareness year-round, recognizing the important role each of us plays in stopping abuse.
Robert Shapiro, MD
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center
Mayerson Center for Safe and Healthy Children