Child Abuse and Neglect

What Is Child Abuse? girl holding balloon

According to the Child Abuse and Prevention Treatment Act (CAPTA), child abuse and neglect is defined as the following: "Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation" or "An act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm."

Physical abuse: Non-accidental physical injury to the child.
Sexual abuse: Sexual touching, intentional exposure, or sexual manipulation between an adult and a child. Most common abuse in church settings.
Emotional abuse: Injury to the psychological capacity or emotional stability of the child.
Neglect: Failure of a parent or other person with responsibility for the child to provide for the child to the degree that the child is threatened with harm.

Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of Child Abuse and Neglect.
 

Prevalence

For the first time in Mennonite Church USA history, we have data regarding the incidence of sexual abuse or violation experienced by church members.  According to the 2006 Church Member Profile, Mennonite Church USA church members report experiencing sexual abuse or violation in the following percentages: 

  Women Men
 Ever 21.0% 5.6%
 Yes, as a Child 11.9% 3.5%
 Yes, as a Teen 7.8% 2.0%
 Yes, as an Adult 4.2% 0.5%

This means that more than 1 in 5 women in MC USA congregations have experienced sexual abuse or violation, most while they were children or teens.  For men, the incidence of abuse experienced before the age of 20 is 5.5%.  For society at large, the figures range from 1725% for women and 316% for men, depending on the study and how people define sexual abuse or assault.*

In 2013, 679,000 children were victims of maltreatment in the U.S.; that is 9.1 per 1,000 children. An estimated 6.4 million children received a CPS investigation, meaning they were likely at-risk for abuse or neglect. Children of all ages are abused and neglected. Tragically, young children are disproportionately represented among the victims. In 2013, almost half (47%) of all victims of child abuse were five years old or younger. 

 
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children's Bureau. (2015). http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/research-data-technology/statistics-research/child-maltreatment
 

How Do I Report?

Call either Child Protective Services (CPS) or your local police (911). Most states have a toll-free child abuse hotline; look in a phone book or on the Internet for contact information. You could also call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) and they will direct you.

Here is a summary of state laws regarding clergy as mandatory reporters of child abuse and neglect.

*This study was conducted by the Young Center for the Study of Anabaptist and Pietist Groups and included responses from 2216 randomly selected members of Mennonite Church USA.  The analysis was conducted by Conrad L. Kanagy and paid for by the MCC U.S. Women's Advocacy Program. For society at large, the lower figures come from the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network and the higher ones from the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) study, conducted 19951997.