Speaking Out for the Unheard



I recently read the book Horton Hears a Who to my 4th-grade class.  For those of you who are not familiar with the story, Horton is a lovable elephant who lives in the Jungle of Nool. He takes on the gallant task of protecting a tiny “speck” and it’s even tinier inhabitants by promising to place them in a safe place.

Call me crazy, but my momma’s heart cries out to Horton!  I too am trying to protect precious, tiny inhabitants in this world!

Not only am I the mother of 3 amazing kids, but being a teacher means that I also have 53 students who I’ve adopted as my own. I love all 56 of my kiddos. I’m always looking out for their well being. 

As a teacher, I’m legally obligated to be aware of the signs and symptoms of child abuse, but as a mother, I’m a survivor of sexual abuse who hopes that her babies will never be associated with this title.

I’m a working mom, and every time I separate from my babies, I can’t help but feel a sense of worry. Don’t get me wrong, my daughters have wonderful teachers and caregivers, but my mommy heart still aches and hopes for their safety throughout the day.  I want my girls to be prepared for any unsafe situation they may face, but I find myself constantly coaching on what to do if ever touched inappropriately.

I don’t blame my parents for what happened to me because it never crossed their mind to speak with me about inappropriate touching.  In the culture my parents were raised, talking about anything sexual was wrong or bad.  

I want to encourage you to talk with your child about their body and keep those lines of communication open.

Unfortunately, sexual abuse is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to child abuse.  According to childhelp.org, child abuse is “when a parent or caregiver, whether through action or failing to act, causes injury, death, emotional harm or risk of serious harm to a child. There are many forms of child maltreatment, including neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation, and emotional abuse.” 

Physical abuse occurs when a parent, guardian, or caregiver knowingly inflicts harm.  The signs are much easier to detect. Signs and symptoms of physical abuse include bruises, injuries with confusing explanations, aggression, fear, withdrawal, and depression.

Sexual abuse occurs when an adult involves a child in sexual conduct.  Signs and symptoms of sexual abuse include frequent UTI or yeast infections, complaints of itching in genital areas, sexual behavior or advanced sexual knowledge, nightmares, bed-wetting, anxiousness, withdrawal, and depression.

Emotional abuse occurs when a parent, guardian, or caregiver harms a child’s emotional and or mental development.  Signs and symptoms of emotional abuse include delays in development, speech problems, bed wetting or frequent accidents, overly compliant or aggressive behavior, depression, and suicidal thoughts. 

Neglect occurs when a parent, guardian, or caregiver does not provide a child with basic needs such as supervision, affection, medical attention, or the opportunity for an education.  Signs and symptoms of neglect include poor hygiene, fatigue, clothing that doesn’t fit or is dirty, low body weight, hunger, and poor school attendance.  

The signs and symptoms of child abuse may be difficult to detect at times, but I feel a good rule of thumb is, if there is any suspicion, report it.  

Child protective services will conduct an investigation to determine whether or not a child is being abused.  It’s better to report and have it investigated than to stay silent and continue to let a child be abused.  

To report a suspicion of child abuse, you can fill out a form online with the Texas Abuse Hotline or call them at 1-800-252-5400. They are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  All reports are anonymous.  

As I continue to think about Horton and his promise to protect the Whos, I can’t help but feel a sense of admiration for him. As a survivor of abuse, I make it my duty to advocate for children.  

April happens to be Child Abuse Awareness Month, so join me as I continue my promise to protect those “tiny inhabitants” with voices that may go unheard. “Because after all, a person’s a person no matter how small.”

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Vanessa has lived in Corpus Christi all her life. She has been married to her husband, James, for three years. Alone time is scarce in their household with Finley {9 months,} Mikayla {8,} and James III {18} hanging around all the time. Their family loves movie nights, especially with Hot Tamales and Whoppers mixed in their popcorn! Vanessa loves all things nerdy! She loves the written word, and is a little obsessed with Jane Austin and William Shakespeare. She even has a collection of Shakespearian Star War novels! {Told you she’s a nerd!} Vanessa is a full time teacher and fortunate enough to share her love of reading and writing with her students everyday!


  1. Awesome article. As parents it is important to be aware and be involved in our kids life as much as possible. Don’t ignore the facts, because 9 out of 10 times our kids are scared to talk to someone about the issue. Amazing job in writing this and bringing awareness.

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