On Wednesday, April 2, people across the country will observe the National Day of Hope for abused children, part of National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Its goal is to raise public awareness so that each of us will have the power to help an abused child if we so choose.
On a typical day, three children in the United States will die as a result of child abuse in the home. A report of known or suspected child abuse or neglect will be made to the authorities every 10 seconds. However, most people who witness an actual incident of child abuse will not report it.
We urge everyone: If you see something or hear something -- DO SOMETHING. Suspicion of neglect or abuse is sufficient to make a report.
For information or local reporting numbers, call the Childhelp USA National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453), 24 hours a day. All calls are anonymous and confidential.
You can also help by keeping abused children in your thoughts and prayers. Learn the signs and symptoms of child abuse and neglect so you can recognize the red flags when you see them. For additional ways to participate, visit www.childhelpusa.org.
Please join us as we share the light of hope for abused children.
Sara O'Meara and Yvonne Fedderson
Co-founders, Childhelp USA
I hope your letter generates the attention it deserves. Children are some of our most vulnerable citizens. Here are some of the signs and symptoms of child abuse:
Physical abuse: unexplained burns, cuts, bruises or welts in the shape of an object; problems in school; fear of adults.
Emotional abuse: apathy; depression; lack of concentration.
Sexual abuse: inappropriate interest or knowledge of sexual acts; overcompliance or excessive aggression; fear of a particular person or family member.
Neglect: unsuitable clothing for weather; extreme hunger; apparent lack of supervision.
I caution readers to be aware that these are only indicators, and if people see them they should check into the situation more thoroughly. One should not immediately jump to conclusions based on one or two general symptoms.
Last Friday was my birthday. My co-workers threw me a surprise party, complete with cake, singing, a card signed by everyone in the office and a beautiful bouquet of roses and orchids.
That night, when I told my boyfriend, "Rodney," about it, he blew up and talked nonstop about how no one ever does "nice stuff" for him. Then he said he had completely forgotten my birthday -- and even worse, he tried to pick a fight.
When I shared this with my mother, she told me that Rod's behavior could be considered emotional and verbal abuse. He has always gotten angry over little things and is quick to complain about what he doesn't have "and never will." I've heard all the stories about how rough he had it growing up. I, on the other hand, have pleasant childhood memories and a positive outlook on life.
The next day Rod apologized. He said his outburst was because he was mad at himself for forgetting my birthday and embarrassed that other people did things for me that he should have done. Should I accept his apology and move on -- or am I seeing signs of a relationship doomed to fail? We've been together for three years, and I'm growing tired of his outbursts.
Dissatisfied With My Guy
in East Los Angeles
If your birthday was yet another example of Rodney's volatility and negativity, it's time to accept the fact that he doesn't make you happy -- and probably never will.
Your signature says it all.
Consider this: The best belated birthday present you can give yourself is your freedom and the chance to move on.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069.
(c)2003, Universal Press Syndicate