Western Mass officials speak out on child abuse prevention - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Western Mass officials speak out on child abuse prevention

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April is National Child Abuse Prevention month and officials are spreading the word on ways to prevent a child from being abused.

You may not notice it happening around you. You may think you don't know any victims of it.

But health officials say child abuse and neglect has become an unfortunate common occurrence.

According to the most recent numbers from Child Protective Services, in 2012 nearly 1 percent of U.S. children and 2 percent of U.S. infants were found to be abused or neglected.

"If we take child maltreatment including neglect, sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse and exposure to domestic violence, we're clearly talking about at least 20 percent of the population," said Dr. Stephen Boos, medical director for Baystate Children's Hospital.

It's a staggering number that Boos said adds up to 4 million children a year. 

He said abuse on a child can impact them throughout their entire lifetime.

"Some of these kids are having behavior issues or learning issues, and an impact on their attention, their emotional processing," said Boos.  

He said abuse does not only leave mental scars on victims, but physical ones as well with results of illnesses including heart attacks, cancer or liver disease happening later in life.

And the negative impacts aren't only specific to the victims.

Boos said abuse also has an indirect impact on the general population.

"If you are hiring from a community, 20 percent of the people who you are dealing with, they too have been impacted by child abuse," explained Boos.  

Boos said prevention is an entire community effort that needs the effort of an entire community.

"We need to speak up to intervene, and we need to do something to make children safe," said Boos. 

He said taking three steps can get the prevention started.

They include creating a resilience with strong attachments between a child and their guardian.  And educating the public on the warning signs of abuse and reporting it if you are a witness to abuse, or are worried it may be happening to someone you know.

Boos said if you think you may know of a possible case of child abuse you can log on to the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families website and search for your local child abuse center to report it.

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