Is it child abuse? Understanding the myths vs. facts

Adults can help protect children by understanding and correcting common myths about child abuse.

The signs of child abuse and neglect are not always obvious, and thousands of children in Kentucky and Indiana fall victim each year.

“Adults can help protect children by understanding and correcting common myths about child abuse,” said Kelly L. Dauk, M.D., chair of the Norton Children’s Hospital Child Abuse Task Force and pediatrician with Norton Children’s Inpatient Care, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine.

What is child abuse? Myths vs. facts

MYTH: Child abuse is always violent in nature.

Fact: Child abuse can be physical (harming the child with physical force or an object), sexual (via sexual contact or noncontact activities that are sexual in nature) and/or psychological (verbal abuse that harms a child’s emotional development).

Child neglect means the caregiver is not providing adequate food, housing, clothing, medical care, supervision and/or schooling, although the Kentucky state legislature recently passed a law that differentiates poverty from neglect. This measure would avoid a child’s automatic removal into the foster care system if caregivers simply do not have the financial means to offer necessary support. Similar legislation has not been introduced in Indiana.

MYTH: Children are abused by bad people or strangers.

Fact: Abuse can happen by strangers, but in most cases, children are abused by someone they know or love, such as a family member or close family friend.

MYTH: Only certain kinds of parents abuse their children.

Fact: Child abuse and neglect happen in all types of families, regardless of demographics or socioeconomic status. Sometimes a family that seems “perfect” on the outside could be hiding problems inside the home.

MYTH: Abused children will grow up to become abusers.

Fact: While some adults may repeat the cycle of abuse, many abuse survivors protect their children from abuse and are wonderful parents. No matter what happened in someone’s past, no child is deserving of any type of abuse.

Norton Children’s Prevention & Wellness

Our team offers child abuse prevention resources for families in Kentucky and Southern Indiana.

Call (502) 629-KIDS.

How to get help

Kentucky and Indiana are mandatory reporting states, which means every adult is obligated by law to report suspicions of child abuse and neglect.

If a child is in immediate danger, call 911.

Suspected child abuse can be reported by calling the hotline in your state:

  • In Kentucky, call (877) KY-SAFE1 (597-2331).
  • In Indiana, call (800) 800-5556.

Confidential help also is available:

  • Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline: (800) 4-A-CHILD (422-4453)
    • Professional crisis counselors can provide intervention, information and referrals to emergency services, social services and support resources.