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Child abuse is everyone’s business

April is designated as Child Abuse Prevention Month, but our concern for children and their safety should not be limited to a single month.

Child abuse and neglect happens far too often in our communities, sometimes right under our noses.

The Southwest Mississippi Children’s Advocacy Center, in association with Bank of Franklin and Wal-Mart Distribution Center, have displayed “Pinwheels for Prevention” in order to bring attention to the problem.

“Just be aware. It is happening, whether we want to think it is or not, it is,” Kim Walley, the advocacy center’s executive director, said.

As a concerned community, we can do our part to help prevent or stop child abuse. If you suspect abuse or neglect, get involved. We too often tell ourselves that it is none of our business, but the well-being of children is everyone’s business.

While there are sometimes clear signs of abuse — like bruises — often the signs are no so clear. Neglect does not always show up in a way that is easy to see.

Below are signs of abuse and neglect, courtesy of www.webmd.com. If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, call the proper local authorities or call the Mississippi Abuse Hotline at 1-800-222-8000. If a child is in immediate danger, call 911.

Signs of physical abuse:

• Bruises, welts or other injuries that can’t be explained or don’t match with the child’s story.

• Burns, especially from cigarettes, that can’t be explained.

• Injury marks that have a pattern, like from a hand, belt or other objects.

• Injuries that are at different stages of healing.

• Medical or dental issues that go untreated.

Kids who’ve been physically abused may also:

• Avoid any kind of touch or physical contact.

• Be afraid to go home.

• Seem to always be on high alert.

• Wear clothing that doesn’t match the weather — such as long sleeves on hot days — to cover up bruises.

• Withdraw from friends and activities.

Signs of sexual abuse may include:

• Avoiding a certain person for no clear reason.

• Bloody, torn or stained underwear.

• Bruising or bleeding around the genitals.

• Pain or itching around the genitals that might cause problems walking or sitting.

• Pregnancy or STDs, especially for boys and girls under 14 years old.

• Refusing to change clothes in front of others.

• Running away from home.

• Sexual activity or knowledge that people usually have only when they’re older.

Signs of emotional abuse may include:

• Constant worry about doing something wrong.

• Speech problems or delays in learning and emotional development.

• Depression and low self-esteem.

• Doing poorly in school.

• Extreme behavior, such as being way too obedient or way too demanding.

• Headaches and stomachaches with no clear cause.