I had a somewhat exasperating moment in my Foster Care Review Board not long ago, (not an unusual occurrence by the way), a parent came in showing us how much their children were loved and that there was no way they could be abusing them, as the children were smiling in these photos the parent brought to share with us.
The statistics about child abuse are staggering, there are over 3 million reports of child abuse made every year in our country. What that tells me is that you very likely have someone in your life who has been abused, and/or you have been abused yourself. So tell me, did you smile for photographs? Did your friend smile for photographs? Of course you did, of course they did, that’s what people do, abused or not!
But what you need to look for is not the smile, not the teeth…but the “eyes”…look deeper and you can likely see the pain, the hollowness.
Below is a list of warning signs I pulled from a Winged Hope flyer, because all the content had to fit on the page, the list doesn’t include every single clue that a child might be being abused, one sign that’s missing is that sometimes, especially with sexual abuse, the child has an overwhelming desire to please and thus will be extra sweet and smile even more often….especially for photographs.
I know the parent who brought in the photos was trying to convince us of their innocence, they had a motive, but it made me think, as I often do, we can only bring about change through education. I assumed that everyone knew that abused children smile in photographs, but what this taught me was that I was wrong, maybe everyone doesn’t know.
But now you do…even abused children smile for photographs…so look beyond the smile…know the signs.
And if you do come across someone who you suspect is in fact being abused,call 911 or call 1-800-4-A-CHILD.