Child Abuse: How to spot it and how to report it

MID-SOUTH — Child abuse is an ongoing issue across the Mid-South. Abuse often happens over a period of time, rather than as a one-time event, and can have a devastating effect on a child’s development.

FOX13 is taking a closer look at abuse after children in Mississippi told their teacher that they didn’t want to get in trouble again because they’d be locked in a cage at home. Child Protective Services was alerted, and the children’s grandmother and another man were arrested and charged with child abuse the next day. Sheriff’s deputies found a wire cage with a locking device in the home along with evidence that led them to believe at some point children had been placed inside.

RELATED: Grandmother, boyfriend charged after allegedly locking children in dog cage, sheriff’s office says

Child abuse and neglect is a hidden epidemic and a subject many people are uncomfortable discussing. It is a serious public health problem that can have a long-term impact on health, opportunity, and wellbeing.

Anyone who suspects child abuse may report their concerns. If you see something that concerns you or just doesn’t seem right, say something! Some people, such as doctors, teachers, clergy, and school counselors, are required by law to report suspected child abuse. Everyone in Tennessee and Mississippi is a mandated reporter under state law. That means any person with reasonable cause to believe a child is being abused or neglected must, under the law, report it.

The CDC lists four common types of abuse and neglect:

  • Physical abuse is the intentional use of physical force that can result in physical injury.
    • Examples include hitting, kicking, shaking, burning, or other shows of force against a child.
  • Sexual abuse involves pressuring or forcing a child to engage in sexual acts.
    • It includes behaviors such as fondling, penetration, and exposing a child to other sexual activities.
  • Emotional abuse refers to behaviors that harm a child’s self-worth or emotional wellbeing.
    • Examples include name-calling, shaming, rejection, withholding love, and threatening.
  • Neglect is the failure to meet a child’s basic physical and emotional needs.
    • These needs include housing, food, clothing, education, and access to medical care.

Our FOX13 Team has compiled a list of resources if you suspect or know a child is being abused. We want children to get the help they need to keep them as safe as possible.

Identifying signs of abuse

Some common signs that something concerning could be happening in a child’s life include:

  • unexplained changes in behavior or personality
  • becoming withdrawn
  • seeming anxious
  • becoming uncharacteristically aggressive
  • lacking social skills and having few friends, if any
  • poor bond or relationship with a parent
  • knowledge of adult issues inappropriate for their age
  • running away or going missing
  • always choosing to wear clothes which cover their body

There are also things about a parent or caregiver that potentially contribute to abuse. These include substance use, unresolved mental health issues, the young age of a parent, lack of education, difficulty bonding or nurturing with the child, prior history of child abuse, or other trauma.

How to report child abuse in your state

In Tennessee, call the Child Abuse Hotline at 877-237-0004

Reports also can be made online:

In Mississippi, call the Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-222-8000 or 601-432-4570

Reports can also be made online: or by app. CLICK HERE for more information about the app.

In Arkansas, call the Arkansas Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-482-5964

You can make a report to any of the hotlines without giving your personal information. You should give as much information about the incident, the victim, and the alleged abuser as possible.

Additional help and information are available through the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline.

RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-HOPE in partnership with more than 1,000 local sexual assault service providers across the country and operates the DoD Safe Helpline for the Department of Defense.

RAINN also has a Spanish language website available: