The Quiet Epidemic: Child Maltreatment

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By Ginger Kadlec — get free updates of new posts here.

A quiet epidemic is harming… and even killing… children throughout the United States.

According to a new study conducted by researchers at Yale University and published by JAMA Pediatrics1 in 8 children in the United States are victims of maltreatment. Previous figures estimated that a far smaller number, 1 in 100 children, were maltreated annually… these results reveal an alarming increase of epidemic proportion.

Data gathered from 2004 to 2011 shows that 12.5% of children were victims of confirmed cases of maltreatment before they turned 18 years old… a far cry from the 1% previously estimated.

Child “maltreatment” is defined as “violent or cruel treatment” and encompasses a variety of abuses including physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect.  Researchers reviewed nearly 5.7 million confirmed cases of maltreatment that were registered in the The National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS). This study found that approximately 80% of the child maltreatment cases involved neglect.

The study shared a variety of other data and revealed that ethnicity can be a factor in maltreatment. Researchers found black children at greater risk of maltreatment with 1 in 5 children suffering abuse or neglect.

This infographic outlines the research data shared by JAMA Pediatrics:

What can you do?

There’s no hiding from it. Child abuse is all around us. When you see children on a playground, at a baseball game, riding a school bus or shopping at the mall, know that 1 in 8 of those kids is a victim of maltreatment.

Most children DO NOT DISCLOSE ABUSE right away, if at all. In fact, 73% of children don’t disclose abuse for at least one year; another 45% of victims do not tell anyone for at least 5 years, while still others never disclose their abuse (Smith et al., 2000Broman-Fulks et al., 2007).

It’s up to each of us to be vigilant and identify warning signs in children. While these signs may not be indicative of abuse, they often are. The key is to trust your gut… if something doesn’t seem right to you, check it out. A child’s life could very well depend on your courage to take action.

If you DO suspect a child is being abused or neglected, immediately contact:

      • Your local law enforcement agency or dial 911
      • The National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4-A-CHILD (800-422-4453)

We have a duty to STOP this epidemic from spreading any further. Improve the world one child at a time and put an end to child maltreatment.

About Ginger

Raising awareness of the world-wide epidemic of child abuse has become Ginger’s life mission. An impassioned child advocate, trainer, speaker and child forensic interviewer, Ginger regularly blogs about child protection issues and has released a report for parents and other caring adults, “10 Scary Apps.” Ginger can be contacted via her website, “Ginger Kadlec: 4UrKids” at or find her on Facebook at

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