• Frequently Asked Questions: Preventing Child Abuse

    The Child Abuse Team of the Mayerson Center for Safe and Healthy Children at Cincinnati Children’s provides the following frequently asked questions (FAQs) and answers.

  • It depends on the circumstances. If the child is at risk, it’s critical to intervene immediately, perhaps by calling the police or asking a store manager to call police. 

    In less severe cases, you can help by trying to calm the parent. Try:

    • Identifying with the parent. Say something like: “My child gets tired when we wait for the bus, too.”
    • Distracting the parent. Start a friendly conversation, say something nice, ask for directions or think of a question that might help the parent cool down.
    • Offering help. If a parent is trying to juggle several things, offer to help by carrying bags, etc.
    • Standing guard. If a child has been left alone in a cart or a parked car, keep an eye out for danger.

    As a general rule, be positive. Dirty looks or negative comments will only make things worse. Try to calm the parent, and try to take the attention off of the child being abused. Appear supportive of the parent. The first priority is to try to provide for the safety of the child. If you’re threatened, however, you need to call the police immediately. You may also want to call child welfare authorities.

    Normal play activity − such as holding babies in the air and jiggling them − will not cause the brain injuries known as shaken baby syndrome. It takes more forceful shakes.

    If you have a fussy baby who has been fed and has a clean diaper, attempt to soothe her with talking, singing, rocking, walking or car rides. Sometimes, nothing helps. If the crying continues, and you’ve tried everything to help, you may simply need to put the baby in her crib and let her cry until she stops or goes to sleep. If you feel yourself losing control, put your baby down and ask a friend, relative or neighbor for help.

    Parents should discuss the dangers of shaking with all of the baby’s caregivers, including spouses, significant others, grandparents, siblings, baby sitters and day care providers.

    As soon as the child has verbal skills, start talking about private parts and proper and improper touching. Teach children that it’s OK to say “NO!” even to an adult. Teach assertive ways to say no confidently, both verbally and non-verbally, such as standing up straight and using a serious tone of voice.

    Try asking the child questions to help prepare for potential situations, such as:

    • What do you do if someone tries to touch you in a way that makes you uncomfortable?
    • What if someone you know pretends to touch you by accident?
    • What if you are playing outside and a stranger asks you to help find a lost dog or take a ride in a car?
    • What if someone tells you they will give you money to go with them and can keep a secret?
    • What if you were in bed at night and someone in your house came into your room and touched your private parts, saying you should never tell?

    Also talk to children about how to get away if someone doesn’t stop when they say no. Teach them they can yell, fight or make a scene to get away from danger.

    Reassure children that they can always tell you things they’ve done or things that have happened to them and that you will always love them no matter what. Teach your children that sometimes abuse occurs even if you try to stop it, and it isn’t their fault. And tell them that no one should ever ask them to keep a secret about touching from their parents or caregivers.