Do you know the signs and symptoms of child abuse? Can you tell when your child is being abused?
Child abuse is a societal ill that affects the most vulnerable amongst us: our children.However, it is a problem that has defied solution because most children who are being abused are intimidated to the point of silence because of the psychological manipulations involved.
Childhelp.com defines child abuse as a situation 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. It is also defined as behaviours or inaction by an adult towards a child or young person that harms or endangers the child.
There are different types of child abuse ranging from physical abuses, psychological abuses,child negligence and sexual abuse.
Physical abuse involves brutal and violent acts deliberately meant to injure the child by hitting, burning, strangling him or her in order to hurt the body and spirit of the child.
Psychological abuse refers to humiliating and shaming the child by belittling him or subjecting him to carry out degrading tasks. The adult who uses his authority to threaten the child or isolate him to stop him from having friends abuses psychologically the child.
Child negligence is when children suffer from lack of affection, treatment, protection and food.
Sexual abuse includes indecent exposure in front of a child, rape, incest and it constitutes serious violation of children’s right, especially the right to dignity.
Child abuse occurs for different reasons and in different circumstances. Abuse related to very strict disciplinary style where a number of adults use violence to punish a child in the home is the most common. Most of the time, they are people in the inner circle of the child’s life like parents, in-laws, nannies,who carry out this kind of physical and psychological abuse.
According to Audrey Gigon in an article published on the Humanium.com,the internet site of an association that protects the well-being of children worldwide and strives for a concrete improvement in their living conditions and their basic rights this abusive situation leads children to consider the abuse as a punishment and try to hide their pain because they feel guilty of misbehaving. For that reason, children comply with that situation in believing that it is a normal part of their life.These abuses are related to a very strict disciplinary style.
This kind of treatment can have a very bad and insidious repercussion, leaving children with irreversible troubles in their behaviors. And when traumatized, they are more likely to become rough and negligent adults toward children.
Gigon speaks about abuse related to cultural practices and explains that due to religious, cultural and traditional background, many countries tolerate certain kind of practices even though they contravene the physical and mental well-being of their children. It adds that cultural punishments, women genital mutilation and child domestic labour are part of these cultural customs.
Furthermore, Gigon adds that despite the fact that they know the gravity of those acts in the health of children, (countries have signed international laws that condemn child abuses) they continue to allow those practices. In fact, governments do not consider the gravity of these practices. Thus, they do not try to take measures to raise awareness and to prevent such practices.
Child abuse can be a single incident or a continuous string of incidents that happen overtime. According to Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women of United Kingdom, physical abuse include hitting, shaking, throwing, burning, biting and poisoning. It says that physical abuse does not always leave visible marks or injuries. It is not how bad the mark or injury is, but rather the act itself that causes injury or trauma to the child. Furthermore, it says that sexual abuse occurs when an adult, stronger child or adolescent uses their power or authority to involve a child in sexual activity and it can be physical, verbal or emotional. It covers kissing or holding a child in a sexual manner, exposing a sexual body part to a child, having sexual relations with a child,talking in a sexually explicit way that is not developmentally appropriate,making obscene phone calls or remarks to a child, sending obscene mobile text messages or emails to a child, fondling a child in a sexual manner ,persistently intruding on a child’s privacy, penetrating the child’s vagina or anus by penis, finger or any other object, oral sex, rape, incest, showing pornographic films, magazines or photographs to a child, having a child pose or perform in a sexual manner, forcing a child to watch a sexual act and practicing child prostitution.
Emotional abuse is said to have occurred when a child’s social, emotional, cognitive or intellectual development is impaired or threatened and it can include emotional deprivation as a result of persistent rejection, hostility, teasing/bullying, yelling, criticism and the exposure of a child to domestic and family violence.
According to Blue Knot (National Centre of Excellence for Complex Trauma), emotional abuse or maltreatment, also known as psychological abuse or maltreatment is the most common form of child abuse. It is also experienced by children experiencing domestic violence.While many parents are emotionally abusive without being violent or sexually abusive, emotional abuse often accompanies physical and sexual abuse. It includes acts of omission (what is not done) e.g. emotional neglect ( not expressing or showing love and affection) and commission (what is done) e.g. rejection, humiliation, insults, setting unreasonable expectations or restricting opportunities for the child to learn, socialize or explore. Each can negatively impact on a child’s self-esteem and social competence.
Some parents do not see the child as a separate person, and fulfill their own needs and goals, rather than their children’s. Their parenting style may be aggressive, and include shouting and intimidation. They may isolate or confine the child, or they may manipulate their children using more subtle means, such as emotional blackmail. Emotional abuse and neglect are the primary reasons for a child being investigated for maltreatment in 2014-15 (AIHW 2016).
Neglect on the other hand,takes place when a child’s basic necessities of life are not met, and their health and development are affected. These basic needs include, food, housing, health- care, adequate clothing, personal hygiene, hygienic living conditions, timely provision of medical treatment and adequate supervision.