Recognizing child abuse: When is it okay to step in?

Medford, Ore. —  An eleven year old male victim of child abuse under the hands of his stepmother and father, Angela and Lawrence Millard, had visible signs of physical trauma, but many went unseen by outsiders. 

Though signs went unnoticed in this case, there are ways the community can be more aware.

“Betrayal is the first word that comes to my mind,” says Randy Ellison, a local author and child abuse advocate who was the victim of abuse when he was a teen.

“It’s hard for anyone to tell they have been victimized.  I think it’s a little harder for a boys to do that,” explains Ellison.

According to the Jackson County Children’s Advocacy Center in Medford, 1 in 10 children will be abused before they are 18 years old.  In Jackson County last year there were about 1,600 reported cases of child abuse.

“Most children who are being abused are not going to report that for themselves,” says Tammy Pitzen, Executive Director of Children’s Advocacy Center.

That’s why Ellison and Pitzen stress the importance of community awareness.

“We all feel uncomfortable getting into people’s business,” says Pitzen.  “Child abuse is everybody’s business.”

Ellison kept his secret of abuse as a teenager until he was 57 years old.  He says it’s because he didn’t feel he had anyone he could tell.

“I held that secret so long because that door had never been made available to me.”

He says keeping an open line of communication with a child is vital and if they share something that concerns you tell authorities.

Ellison says, “Be willing to speak up because as a community as a culture it is our duty to protect the vulnerable people.”

Pitzen says marks, bruises and a fear of going home could all be warning signs of abuse.  Don’t be afraid to report any one those signs.  She also says it’s important to talk to your kids about abuse.  If their friends reveal trouble at home, teach them not to keep that a secret.

Ellison says from experience it can be a long road to healing.

“This never ends.  This isn’t like surgery that you get over and get better.  The healing process is a lifetime.  If you make one phone call you’re truly saving a human being from being tormented for their rest of their life.”

If you see or hear something that you think could be abuse against a child or anyone for that matter you can make an an anonymous call to DHS at 1-855-503-safe.

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