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Abuse Prevention: See Something, Say Something

By Kristen Cala / Special to The Children's Movement

Saturday, April 1, marks the start of Child Abuse Prevention Month in Florida and across the country. More than 700,000 children nationally were victims of abuse last year- and those were just the reported cases.

The saying "See Something, Say Something" rings true, and experts say there are warning signs to look out for. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has categorized child abuse into four types: neglect, physical, sexual, and emotional.

If children you see at work, in your community or in your family often exhibit a dirty appearance or clothes, or seem hungry or tired frequently, they could be possible victims of neglect. Children with bruises, burns or more serious injuries they can't readily explain might be victims of physical abuse. Sexual and emotional abuse can be harder to identify because there are not always visible signs. But if children complain of pain, swelling or redness in their private areas, or if has inappropriate knowledge about sex for their age, they might have been abused sexually. And if they show very low self-esteem or are overly critical of themselves, those might be signs of emotional abuse.

If you notice any of those signs in children you encounter, you can call the Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE (1-800-962-2873).

During the month of April, you can also show your support for preventing child abuse by planting a pinwheel or a pinwheel garden in your yard, workplace or community as part of the Pinwheels for Prevention national awareness campaign. The simple child's toy is the symbol of Child Abuse Prevention Month and serves as a reminder to be positive and caring role models for the children in our lives. For more information about the campaign, go to http://www.ounce.org/capmonth.html.

The campaign is being coordinated in our state by the Prevent Child Abuse Florida, the Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida and the Florida Department of Children and Families. A month-long truck tour is starting to deliver the prevention message to local communities across the state. To find out about events in your area, go to http://www.ounce.org/capevents.asp.

Here's one more way you can help: Share this blog and information about these warning signs with friends, coworkers, family, and the children in your life. By being able to recognize the signs, you have the power to change a life.

Kristen Cala is a senior in the College of Education at the University of Florida. This year, she is volunteering with The Children's Movement on a number of projects, including writing blogs.