When we send our kids off to school, we expect them to be treated with care. So what can we do if we suspect that our child is actually being abused? Abuse can come in a variety of forms, both physical and emotional, and at times, it can be hard to pinpoint whether or not abuse is really occurring. Children are often ashamed or for younger kids, even unaware of what is happening to them, so the abuse regularly goes unreported.
Common signs of child abuse include physical signs, like bruises, broken bones and burns, or behavioral signs, such as showing no interest in an activity they once loved, lashing out and being overly aggressive or retreated and avoiding social contact. If a child does come out and tell you that someone is hurting them, always believe them. Even if you have your doubts, following up and ensuring that what was said is true or not is your duty as a parent, caretaker, teacher or other individual involved in the child’s life.
If you notice any of these signs, here are the five important steps to follow.
1. Gather Information
You may be inclined to run to the principals office or to the person you suspect is doing the abusing and give them a piece of your mind—and we can’t fault you for that. But the best thing you can do to ensure the abuse is handled properly is to stay calm and begin collecting evidence. If the abuse is physical, take photos of any bruising or scarring you witness. If you are noticing emotional signs, write down what you have witnessed or anything that the child may have said to inflict your abuse suspicions. If an injury is bad enough, take the child to the doctor or hospital and get copies of the medical records.
2. Notify the School
Once you have evidence in hand, notify the principal or administrator at the school of what you suspect may be going on. You may also want to call the Child Abuse Hotline and talk to a counselor to ensure you are taking the appropriate steps and telling the correct people.
3. Create a Plan
At this point, the school administration should work with you to put a plan in place. If you do contact the abuse hotline, they will likely assign your case a number and a counselor to speak with directly. Depending on the severity of the situation, you may be advised to take your child home from school until the case is handled. Other situations may allow for the child to remain at school under correct supervision.
4. Speak with Your Child
This may be the hardest step to take but it is also the most vital. Once it is clear that abuse has occurred, you will need to talk to your child about what happened, what is going to happen in the coming weeks and how they feel about the entire situation. If you feel overwhelmed by how to talk to your child, consider enlisting a counselor to help you.
5. Seek Support
No matter the level of abuse, this can take a huge toll on a family. If your child did experience abuse, it’s important that both you and them get the support and help you need following the abuse. Seek support groups in your area for yourself; consider taking your child to a therapist and work to support each other through this difficult time.
If the abuse your child experienced was ongoing and severe, you may also consider filing a lawsuit against the school for their inability to prevent the abuse from happening. At Balkan and Patterson, we have handled many child abuse cases and know how sensitive this can be. We also know what it takes to ensure the families effected by abuse are given the compensation they rightly deserve following child abuse at school. For more information about how we can help you file a claim, contact us at 561-750-9191 or visit our website.