April is Child Abuse Awareness Month

April is Child Abuse Awareness Month

What is Child Abuse?

Let’s begin with a broad definition. According to the Mayo Clinic, child abuse is “any intentional harm or mistreatment to a child under 18.” This definition includes sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and various forms of neglect, including medical and educational neglect. In 1974, Congress passed a key federal law to address child abuse and neglect.

The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act defines abuse as “Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation” or “an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.

If you’re concerned about a child or young person in your life, learn how to respond and make a report of child abuse or maltreatment.

The History of Child Abuse Awareness Month

Every year since 1983, the United States observes National Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month. As people who care about the well-being of children, April provides an opportunity to increase public awareness of child abuse and neglect, as well as highlight the importance of prevention. Communities nationwide participate in various awareness-raising activities this month to help protect children from harm.

Abuse is More Common Than Most People Think

Child abuse happens everywhere, across all sectors of society. Most of the time, the abuse children experience goes unreported. According to the CDC, approximately one in seven children experienced some kind of abuse or neglect in the past year. What’s more, an estimated one in ten children experience sexual abuse before their 18th birthday. Even still, most research finds child abuse and neglect are underreported, with many people not disclosing the harm they suffered until adulthood, if ever.

Children in Minnesota

Minnesota state statute defines five types of abuse:

  • Sexual abuse: when a child is a victim of a criminal sexual act or threatened act committed by a person responsible for the child’s care, a person who has a significant relationship with a child, or a person in a position of authority.
  • Physical abuse: When a caregiver causes any physical injury or threatens harm or substantial injury to a child other than by accident.
  • Minor bruises to severe injury and death
  • Mental Injury: Harm to a child’s psychological capacity or emotional stability evidenced by an observable and substantial impairment
  • Neglect: When a caregiver does not provide needed food, clothing, shelter, medical or mental health care, education, or appropriate supervision; protect a child from conditions or actions that endanger the child; take steps to ensure that a child is educated as required by law.

The most recent available data on child abuse and maltreatment reports in Minnesota is from 2021. That year, 7,463 children were reported victims of physical abuse. Another 4,727 children were reported victims of sexual abuse.

How to Get Help

The Minnesota Children’s Alliance (Alliance) is a coalition of 13 children’s advocacy centers (CACs). CACs provide coordinated services, support, and advocacy to children and non-offending caregivers in situations of abuse and maltreatment. In 2023, Minnesota CACs served over 3,000 children, including 2,116 involved in a report of sexual abuse and 653 involved in a report of physical abuse.

What Happens at a CAC?

At CACs, children get the support and care they need in the wake of abuse. CACs offer a safe, child-focused environment where they can talk about what happened to a trained interviewer. That person knows how to ask questions in ways that don’t re-traumatize the child and do provide fact-finding information for the investigation. Then, a team of medical, mental health, advocacy, child protective services, law enforcement, and prosecution professionals work together to accompany the child and non-offending caregivers through the process.

Find your nearest CAC.

Wearing Blue for Child Abuse Awareness

The Story Behind the Blue Ribbons

In 1989, a grandmother tied a blue ribbon to her minivan antenna to honor and remember her young grandchild. Her grandson died as a result of severe physical abuse. While his grandmother tried to intervene, she was not able to save his life. The legacy of her work is that the blue ribbon became a recognized symbol of child abuse awareness throughout the world.

You can wear a blue ribbon in April and ask your family, friends, and colleagues to do the same. As a symbol of child abuse awareness, you can help break the silence in our communities.

Make or Order a Child Abuse Awareness Ribbon

It’s simple to make a ribbon that you can wear during Child Abuse Awareness Month. Simply cut a few inches in length of blue satin ribbon. Then, use a hot glue gun or safety pin to create the looped shape. Finally, affix a safety pin to the back so you can pin it to your shirt or lapel. Here’s an easy-to-follow tutorial on YouTube.

Wear Blue Day

Start planning your photo now, and on April 5, share your pictures on social media with the hashtags #WearBlueDay and #ChildAbuseAwarenessMonth. Then, don’t forget to tag the Minnesota Children’s Alliance on Facebook, Instagram, and Linked In to show your support. Learn how to make a report if you suspect a child is being abused.