The church is one of the last places where parents worry that their children will be subjected to child abuse. But abuse has, unfortunately, become common even here, devastating countless young lives. When abuse happens, aggressive legal action becomes necessary. The personal injury attorneys at Hale & Monico are committed to helping abused children and their parents win the compensation they need.
The Different Types Of Child Abuse
There are many ways that church staff and officials abuse children. The different types of abuse typically fall into one of three categories: physical, emotional, or sexual. Reporting child abuse is challenging because children are often too scared to let a responsible adult know they are being hurt. Or they may be too young to even understand they have been abused. Either way, it’s imperative for parents and other adults to know the signs of each type of abuse.
Striking, beating, or any other intentional act that causes bodily injury or trauma to a child is physical abuse. Some of the common signs are:
- Unexplained cuts, bruises, broken bones, burns, or other physical injuries
- A caregiver is unable to adequately explain an injury
- A child’s explanation of an injury doesn’t make sense
- The church uses severe disciplinary measures
- Fading injuries, like old bruises, that may indicate past abuse
- Unexplained or sudden mood changes, such as fear or anxiety, when the child arrives at the church
- Unexplained agitation, such as crying, when the child arrives home from the church
This includes deliberate harm to a child’s self-esteem or sense of self-worth. Signs of emotional abuse include:
- Excessive or unusual punishment or isolation of a child
- The caregiver exhibits bullying or belittling behavior towards children
- The child withdraws from social situations or activities he or she once enjoyed
- The child exhibits emotionally inappropriate behaviors for his or her age
- Anxiety and depression
- Suicidal thoughts or actions, or other self-harming behavior
Molestation and rape are obvious forms of sexual abuse, but this term also includes exposing a child to sexual content (such as pornography) and discussing sexual topics with children. Be on the lookout for:
- A child engages in inappropriate sexual activity, including with other children
- A child exhibits inappropriate knowledge about sexual topics
- Stained, bloody, or ripped undergarments
- Itching, pain, or injury to the child’s genitals
- Child pregnancy
- Signs of a sexually transmitted disease
Child abuse can happen in any number of church settings. Any program, such as church daycare, Vacation Bible School, or missions trips could be targeted by predators and abusers.
Preventing Church Child Abuse
As a parent, you want to ensure that any organization you trust to look after your child will put his or her safety first. These are a few things you can do help:
- Ask about background checks. What sort of background checks does the church perform before hiring staff and volunteers? Learn all you can about the screening process.
- Learn more about the church or church event. Whether it’s a church daycare or an event such as Vacation Bible School, visit and find out how it’s run and who’s running it. Abuse is less likely to happen if those in charge know that the parents are vigilant.
- Ask other parents. Talk to other parents whose children are in the church and ask what they know. It’s unlikely they would have their children there if they felt the environment was unsafe, so also find out what they don’t know about the church.
- Find out what sort of training and experience staff members have. Are the people looking after your child experienced in child care matters? Have they volunteered before? Are they trained?
- Consider becoming a volunteer. A great way to meet the church staff members is to become a volunteer yourself. This will also allow you to see how the church or church event is run and will signal your involvement and awareness.
- Keep an eye on security. Can anyone come and go as they please to any part of the church or church event? Child abuse doesn’t always occur at the hands of known staff and volunteers. Other individuals in the church may use weak supervision or security to prey on children.
What To Do If Your Child Is Abused
If your child has been a victim, it’s important to keep a clear head and find out everything you can about the abuse. First, get your child the medical attention he or she needs, and speak with the pediatrician about what happened. If the abuse was traumatic, you may have to enroll your child in therapy or mental health services.
Next, contact law enforcement and file a police report. Follow up with investigators and learn the who, what, when, where, and why. Get as much information as you can and speak with other parents whose children may have been victims or may know what happened.
Finally, contact an experienced church child abuse attorney. This is someone who is not only knowledgeable about the law, but has had actual experience taking abusers and the church officials who enable them to court.
Demanding Compensation For Church Child Abuse
An abused child may need not only medical attention but counseling and therapy to handle the trauma of what happened. These expenses can be significant, and the abuser is the one who should be forced to pay for them. The church itself may also be responsible if it was negligent in allowing an abuser to work or volunteer.
Other forms of compensation may include pain and suffering, emotional distress, and punitive damages. The available damages vary from case to case, so ask a skilled church child abuse attorney about your and your child’s legal options.
Contact Our Church Child Abuse Attorney
Let Hale & Monico fight for you and your child. We don’t tolerate child abuse and will demand the maximum damages allowed by law. Give us a call today to speak with our compassionate team.