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Child abuse prevention

National Child Abuse Prevention Month Child abuse is one of the most uncomfortable topics to discuss. But it is certainly one of the most important. Prevention begins with awareness, and that means understanding what abuse is, what the signs of abuse are, and what actions to take.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, child abuse is far more common than most people realize. In the U.S., nearly 3 million cases of abuse involving children are reported annually. In the six-county area served by Cook Children's, nearly 34,000 parents say that their child has experienced some form of abuse. And these numbers are only those that are reported either to authorities or in anonymous surveys. Many more go unreported.

Kids are kids. They get bumps and bruises and face a lot of hurdles just trying to navigate childhood. But they should never, ever have to face abuse. As part of the Cook Children's promise, the Child Advocacy Resources and Evaluation (CARE) Team is dedicated to creating a safer, healthier community for all children that we serve, and that includes providing the care, support, and tools to bring an end to child abuse.

What is abuse?

Sexual abuseAbuse can occur outside the home, sometimes in places we like to think of as "safe," and can include peer groups (bullying, date rape, hazing, etc.). Abuse can also begin with a stranger who befriends kids and leads them into human trafficking with promises of glamour, money, material goods ... and love. But abuse can – and most often does – happen in the home or within the family. Knowing what constitutes abuse is the first step toward stopping it. Maltreatment of a child includes:

What kids need to know about abuse

For more in-depth information on child abuse, how to recognize it, and what you can do help bring an end to this needless childhood malady, visit

Signs of sexual and physical abuse

Signs of abuseChild abuse is more common than most people imagine. Victims of sexual and physical abuse may be girls or boys of any age. Abuse occurs in all types of families. Recent statistics indicate that one in three girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. Abuse can be devastating for young victims, but they often show no obvious physical signs of the abuse. Some behavioral and emotional responses are common among the victims of sexual and physical abuse. Parents should remember that not all children who demonstrate these behaviors have been abused.

Common symptoms of sexual abuse include*:

*List adapted from material by Suzanne Sgroi, M.D., a leading researcher in the area of child sexual abuse.

Common symptoms of physical abuse include**:

** List adapted from material by Robert Reece, M.D., a national expert in child maltreatment.

What do I do if I suspect a child is the victim of abuse?

If you suspect that a child is the victim of abuse, contact your local police department. You can also call the Texas Abuse Hotline at 1-800-252-5400, or file a report at If it is an emergency, please dial 911 for assistance.


CARE in the community

Abuse hurts us all. Becoming aware of abuse is the first step toward stopping it. That's why our CARE Team offers community-based training on the medical aspects of child abuse and neglect for health professionals and others, such as law enforcement and child protection workers. We also provide training to various community agencies on the dynamics of child sexual and physical abuse and related topics.

For more information on scheduling community education and training, call Cook Children's CARE Team at 682-885-3953. If you are concerned that a child is in immediate danger, call 911.

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