“The bruises will heal but the scars will last a lifetime.”
Child abuse can be a topic that is quite often neglected. It has never done anyone good. Children can be sensitive. They can be easily scared and thus exists the problem of child abuse.
What is child abuse?
Child abuse can be simply described as hurting children. It doesn’t necessarily have to be physical. When a child is mistreated especially when he or she has not done any harm, it can be termed as child abuse.
Children can be abused by anyone. It doesn’t matter if it is their parents, teachers, any other family member, or a complete stranger. Parents can have a role in child abuse.
Four main types of child abuse are:
1. Physical abuse: Hitting children can be considered as a way of disciplining them but it can eventually turn out to be abuse too. Physical abuse can include intentionally slapping, hitting, drowning, or suffocating, not providing children with food or medications, and any other type of physical harm.
Signs of physical abuse are: Being afraid of a certain person, unexplained injuries, flinching, and not wanting to go to a particular place. A person who abuses a child is extremely harsh, scolds a child if they do something wrong rather than explaining where they have gone wrong and physically punishing a child to make him/her do what that person wants.
2. Emotional abuse: Emotional abuse takes place when people say things to make children insecure or make them feel that they are worthless and need to change themselves. This can affect a child deeply. It is emotional abuse if a child is not allowed to express what they are feeling, not caring about what they say, always scolding them and also mocking them.
Signs of emotional abuse are: Showing anxiety and being afraid, extreme aggressiveness or passivity, hating everyone, low self- esteem and being less attached to a parent.
3. Sexual abuse: Sexual abuse is forcing any kind of sexual behavior upon any child. It can be sexual abuse even when there is no violence and the child doesn’t understand what is happening. Sexual abuse can be carried out by anyone and it can be any adult male, female or someone else. Often the person who carries out sexual abuse can threaten the child to keep everything a secret and tries to scare them.
Signs of sexual abuse: Mood changes, talking about being sexually abused and also running away from home. There can be other physical sign that indicates the same too.
4. Neglect: Child neglect occurs when parents or anyone fail to take care of the child and meet the child’s needs. It can be not providing children with clothing or food, not providing a home or shelter, leaving a child alone.
Signs of neglect: Having dirty clothes or unwashed hair, using alcohol and maybe drugs, missing school and talking about how they have no one to take care of them.
Child abuse can be fatal as well as non-fatal. Fatal abuse is generally physical which can also cause the death of a child. There have been many deaths of children reported as a result of fatal abuse. WHO said that there were almost 57,000 deaths among children who were lesser than 15 years of age in 2000. Non-fatal abuse however, can include neglect or any other form of abuse that do not cause deaths.
Any form of abuse can affect a child deeply. It might affect them mentally and physically. It can lead to serious mental problems such as depression or any other form of disorder. Child abuse has also caused suicides in children. Abuse can lead to PTSD also known as post-traumatic disorder in extreme cases. Verbal abuse can cause a child to think very low of themselves and it can affect their education. Abuse can also cause procrastination and bad time management.
Myths about child abuse
There are a lot of myths about child abuse. These myths might get people confused about it. Such kind of myths are:
1. Child abuse is a family matter: It is often said that child abuse is a domestic or a private matter and people other than the family members should not get involved in it. However, it is not true. Child abuse is a matter of public health and human rights issues. As children cannot defend themselves and cannot leave their houses just like that, it is a public matter.
2. Domestic abuse does not take place in good families: Abuse does not discriminate. It can take place anywhere. Even people who are well- educated can carry out abuse.
3. The survivor is responsible in some way for the abuse: Any kind of abuse is done intentionally. It is never the survivor’s fault. No one has any kind of right to hurt anyone.
4. Males are the only ones who sexually abuse children: abuse can be carried out by anyone and it doesn’t matter who it is.
Around 650 million girls are married off before they even turn 18 and one in 5 girls are married off before their 15th birthday. Child marriage is child abuse too. Most of the children married off in their childhood are at a very high risk of being physically or sexually abused than those who are married after 18 years of age. Child marriage is something that violates children’s rights as it takes away a child’s right to education. Child marriage also puts a girl at a higher risk of pregnancies and also puts the child at a higher risk of being raped. Hence, it should be stopped at any cost.
Child trafficking is also child abuse as it involves illegally transporting or recruiting a child by kidnapping them. Such children are kidnapped for slavery or forced labor and sexual exploitation. It causes a tragic end of childhood. Child trafficking happens in almost every country and children are at a risk of being forced to drop out and also risk their lives. Every child deserves to live a future. There are many organizations who are working and fighting against child trafficking.
We can prevent child abuse by:
· Understanding and talking to children
· Notice signs of abuse
· Try to spread awareness and educate people about it.
· Report abuse.
· Support prevention programs.
We can prevent child marriage and trafficking by:
· Empowering children
· Providing them with economic support
· Educate community members
· Raise awareness
· Take action
Child abuse is something that happens worldwide. What we should do is to support the survivors of abuse and raise voice against it. Our actions can save lives.
Contributed by and Credited to Catherine Jaboy, New Era