Protecting Children Matters

When we fail to provide the safe, stable, nurturing relationships children need, their exposure to extreme and sustained stress can interfere with healthy brain development and result in learning, behavioral, emotional, and physical problems.  Compromised brain development narrows life options.  We have a responsibility to create the healthy environments that allow children, and therefore our communities, to achieve long-term health and prosperity.

Did you know?

One in eight U.S. children--that’s 12.5%--will have a confirmed case of child sexual abuse, physical abuse, or neglect by their 18th birthdays, with 80% coming from neglect.

Sadly, those numbers are probably even higher, because most cases of child abuse are not reported.

Exposure to family violence (child abuse, intimate partner violence) can create a chronic stress response in children that may result in a 10% – 20% reduction in brain volume. Even genes can be affected. Early, effective intervention is essential.

We must be urgent about responding to neglect.  It is not “benign” and it strongly affects physical, cognitive, and social development.  Further, children exposed to one type of abuse are at high risk for exposure to other types of abuse, a condition known as Polyvictimization. 

More than four children die every day as a result of child abuse. In fact, the numbers of children who died in the United States as a result of child abuse between 2001 and 2010 (15,510) were over two and a half times the numbers of military deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan combined(5,877).   Every Child Matters Education Fund July 2012

It is estimated that between 50-60% of child fatalities due to maltreatment are not recorded as such on death certificates. 

“Stranger Danger” does not describe the reality of the majority of child maltreatment victims. More than 90% of juvenile sexual abuse victims know their perpetrator in some way.

The majority of those who are abused as children do not go on to become abusers themselves.  Unfortunately, though, about 30% of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children, continuing the cycle of abuse.

Adverse Childhood Experiences

The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACES) surveyed 17,000 adults ages 18 and older and asked about histories of the following: emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional neglect, physical neglect, mother treated violently, household substance abuse, household mental illness, parent separation or divorce, and/or incarcerated household members.   Each of these experiences counted as one type of Adverse Childhood Experience.  Their findings were startling:

  • Adults with 4 or more ACEs were at 12 times more risk for experiencing alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, and suicide attempts than those with fewer ACES.

  • The more categories of risk, the more likely to experience heart disease, cancer, lung disease, fractures, and liver disease.

  • ACEs influence the likelihood of the 10 most common causes of death in the US: suicide attempt, illicit-drug use, smoking, alcoholism, depression, injected-drug use, promiscuity, history of sexually-transmitted diseases, severe obesity, and physical inactivity.