The recent child abuse arrests of a Harrisburg mother and her boyfriend following a large-scale search for a little girl who ran away from her school has sparked the question: where were the signs?
“So often children don’t have the words to tell another adult or even their own peers what they’re experiencing,” said Jennifer Storm, Pennsylvania’s victim advocate.
However, they do show signs: lack of good hygiene, cuts and bruises, use of sexually inappropriate language, and a change of interests and personality.
Storm says child abuse victims typically become withdrawn and anti-social.
“So running away is actually quite common,” she said.
Storm also says teaching young children the right language for their bodies is important.
“When we dumb things down for kids or we try to make them cute because we’re afraid of the actual technical word, we’re disempowering that child,” she said.
Storm believes the problem stretches further than the home; responsibility also lies within the state.
“When you invest in children and when you invest in early outreach and prevention and child welfare, you’re going to have better outcomes in every other aspect of our system.”
If you suspect any child you know is being abused, call the hotline number at 1-800-932-0313.