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Child maltreatment prevention

Child maltreatment, sometimes referred to as child abuse and neglect, includes all forms of physical and emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect, and exploitation that results in actual or potential harm to the child's health, development or dignity. Within this broad definition, five subtypes can be distinguished - physical abuse; sexual abuse; neglect and negligent treatment; emotional abuse; and exploitation.

At The Center for Child Maltreatment, we want you to know that you aren't alone. We're committed to strengthening families and communities so maltreatment of all forms can be avoided. We've compiled tips and resources to help you develop and promote healthy parenting so we can set strong examples against child maltreatment. If you should get overwhelmed, you'll find resources for that as well. Help is just a phone call away. Call the Texas Abuse Hotline at 1-800-252-5400.

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What is maltreatment?

Sexual abuseMaltreatment can occur outside the home, sometimes in places we like to think of as "safe," and can include peer groups (bullying, date rape, hazing, etc.). Maltreatment can also begin with a stranger who befriends kids and leads them into human trafficking with promises of glamour, money, material goods ... and love. But abuse can – and most often does – happen in the home or within the family. Knowing what constitutes maltreatment is the first step toward stopping it. Maltreatment of a child includes:

What kids need to know about maltreatment

For more in-depth information on child maltreatment, how to recognize it, and what you can do help bring an end to this needless childhood malady, visit

Signs of sexual and physical abuse

Child abuse preventionChild maltreatment is more common than most people imagine. Victims of sexual and physical abuse may be girls or boys of any age. Abuse occurs in all types of families. Recent statistics indicate that one in three girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. Abuse can be devastating for young victims, but they often show no obvious physical signs of the abuse. Some behavioral and emotional responses are common among the victims of sexual and physical abuse. Parents should remember that not all children who demonstrate these behaviors have been abused.

Common symptoms of sexual abuse include*:

*List adapted from material by Suzanne Sgroi, M.D., a leading researcher in the area of child sexual abuse.

Common symptoms of physical abuse include**:

** List adapted from material by Robert Reece, M.D., a national expert in child maltreatment.

Get help and get involved

What do I do if I suspect a child is the victim of maltreatment?

If you suspect that a child is the victim of maltreatment, contact your local police department. You can also call the Texas Abuse Hotline at 1-800-252-5400, or file a report at If it is an emergency, please dial 911 for assistance.

Getting help

Get involved

Promoting healthy parenting practices and the prevention of child maltreatment is an issue that we can't tackle alone. Here are some of the groups that would love to hear from you:


Care in the community

Maltreatment hurts us all. Becoming aware of maltreatment is the first step toward stopping it. That's why our CARE Team and The Center for Prevention of Child Maltreatment offer community-based training on the medical aspects of child maltreatment for health professionals and others, such as law enforcement and child protection workers. We also provide training to various community agencies on the dynamics of child sexual and physical abuse and related topics.

For more information on scheduling community education and training, call Cook Children's at 682-885-3953. If you are concerned that a child is in immediate danger, call 911.

Articles from Cook Children's Daily newsroom blog:

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