Child Abuse: Its Roots, Aftermath and Raising Awareness
The menace of child abuse in the society is no news. There are several child training practices, which adversely affects the well-being of a child. These experiences form the behavioural patterns of these children and they grow up to become dysfunctional adults in the society.
There are many perceptions of child abuse, diverse views, opinions and definitions. The World Health organization defines child abuse as all forms of physical or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation resulting in the actual or potential harm to a child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power.
I will go with a simple one. First, let us establish that a child is someone below the age of eighteen. Child abuse is the physical, emotional or sexual maltreatment. Child abuse can also be referred to as child maltreatment. It is an intentional trauma inflicted on a child. When a parent, caregiver, guardian, instructor or relative causes emotional or physical harm to a child through their words, actions and behaviour, that child is being abused. When adults inflict emotional pain or physical injury to a child through their actions or inactions, it is a clear case of child abuse. Child abuse cause actual or threaten harm to a child. In severe cases, it could lead to the death of the child.
In all incidences of child abuse, the abuser is someone unknown to the child. Yes, they are seldom strangers. It is he, who knows the way to the kitchen that often has the boldness to steal meat from the pot. It is usually the people they trust and hold in high esteem that are often the perpetrators of this evil. Child abuse is evil. It is people who know their way around these children that have access to cause them pain. These abusers are their close relatives (uncles, aunts and cousins), family members, teachers, guardians, foster parents, caretakers, nannies, neighbors, babysitters, domestic staff, family friends and even their parents. All forms of abuse can be committed by both genders.
There are different forms of child abuse. They include physical abuse, verbal abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, exploitation or emotional abuse. One form of abuse often transcends to another. Physical abuse is an action that inflicts pain or injury to a child’s body. Physical abuse includes: severe beating, hitting, kicking, slapping, hair pulling scalding, strangling, biting, burning, shaking or suffocating. It uses violence against a child. This form of abuse is predominant among domestic staff and adopted children. It is the most easily recognized form of abuse because they are characterized by visible evidences. When a child constantly bears scars, scratch or cane marks, bruises, welts, broken bones, lacerations, swelling or multiple injuries on his body, it becomes a reason to worry.
Even if the child is defiant, there are certainly other ways of disciplining a child. You do not throw away the baby and the bath water. There should be moderation in everything. Why kill your child or render them handicap in a quest to instill discipline? A minimum amount of physical punishment is acceptable when a child misbehaves. However, constantly inflicting injures on a child is simply going overboard. If your disciplinary actions are not bearing positive results in your child, you may want to consider changing your parenting module. If you have anger management issues, you have no business being a parent or employing a domestic staff. There is such a thing as human relation skills and emotional intelligence. Forcing a child to ingest harmful substances like contaminated food, hot spices, soap, detergent or harmful drugs is also a form of physical abuse.
We may be deceived into dismissing these incidences as mere domestic accidents but a closer look would prove otherwise. Children who are physically abused are often afraid, timid and withdrawn. They do not socialize easily and avoid physical contact with others. They seem frightened at the sight of the abuser. In fact, this sign goes for all forms of child abuse. Once the abuser comes within close range, the child becomes edgy and uneasy. They become extremely careful with their choice of words and actions. Children who are physically abuses are often clad in overall clothes to hide the result of the abuse. You will hardly see them in shorts, knee-length skirts or sleeveless clothes. They ways dress to veil the scar. Some of these children die carelessly in the hands of their abuser. Those who survive, live with the trauma years after the physical injury heals.
Emotional abuse is an attack on a child’s esteem and self-worth. It is usually express to verbal insults and abusive words. When an adult constantly talks down on a child, it affects his mind and hurts his emotions. Emotional abuse includes; constant shouting, berating, harsh/excessive criticism, spurning, humiliating, terrorizing, exploiting, loud yelling, name-calling, rejection, ridicule, degradation, torture, isolation and ignoring a child will destroy that child. Emotional abuse disrupts a child’s mental and social development. It makes them think less of themselves. Your job is to build and mentor them not hurt them. Be careful of the words you speak to them. Life and death lies in the power of the tongue. Keep a guard over your tongue. Your words can either build or maim them. Under no circumstance should you use hurtful, harmful, foul or dirty words on a child. Don’t try to fend yourself by saying you didn’t mean it. What you say may stick with them for a lifetime. Once you speak those harmful words, they can be retrieved or forgotten. I understand that children can be a handful sometimes but you must control yourself. Avoid speaking to them in the feat of anger because you may not be able to repair the damage incurred yours words.
In Northern Kentucky, the government embarked on a project to supervise how parents communicate their children. The officials went to several homes and realized that most parents do not know how to correct their children. They began to teach them to ‘think’ before they speak. The word “THINK” is an acronym which means:
They taught parents to ask themselves these five questions before they speak to their children. Think before you speak. Don’t be controlled by emotions and sentiments. Before you accuse that child of stealing from you, be sure that your allegations are true. Before you open your mouth to speak to a child, evaluate your words. Ensure that they are helpful, inspiring, necessary and kind? Also consider if it is necessary. Don’t fuzz over trivial issues. You don’t have to shout and scold about every little thing. What will go wrong if you decide to ignore an insignificant offence just this once? Words are seeds and they determine the outcome of that child in future.
Emotional abuse is one of the forms of child abuse that can be easily slighted because there is usually no physical evidence. Emotional abuse affects a child psychologically. It destroys a child’s self-image. It causes low self-esteem, self-blame, learned helplessness and lack of self-confidences. It also makes them hostile and aggressive to their peers.
Sexual abuse can be the cruelest form of child abuse. It is the involvement of children in sexual activities which they are not mature enough to fully comprehend. When an adult or older adolescent uses a child for sexual purposes, gratification, stimulation or excitement, it is sexual abuse. Sexual abusive includes, touching a child’s body inappropriately, spying on a child in the bedroom or bathroom, forcing a child to undress or perform sexual acts and rape. It could be done for personal satisfaction or financial reward. Children who are sexually abused suffer guilt, insomnia, nightmares, low self-esteem, sexual dysfunction, chronic pain, mental instability, sexual addiction, depression, anxiety, sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy and suicidal thoughts. Both male and female children are victims of sexual abuse. Sexual abuse is often perpetrated by people are familiar with this child. They are people the child believes can do him no harm. Parents must learn to protect their children from every wolf in sheep clothing.
Neglect is the failure of parents or guardians to provide the basic needs of a child. It involves the inability to provide food, clothing, shelter, security, medical care, quality time and supervision for the child. Anybody who has custody of a child whether as the biological parent or guardian should be able to cater for the needs of that child. The need for family planning cannot be overemphasized. Parents are advised to bear as much child as they can comfortably train. Anyone who does not have a steady source of income or who cannot fend for himself should stay off childbearing for it while. These children never asked to be born. It is unfair to bring innocent children into the world just for them to suffer. A parent or guardian should have the resources to cater for the needs of the child. The child’s well-being and welfare should not be threatened in any way. Some evidences of child neglect include; frequent absence from school, starvation, begging or stealing food or money, poor body grooming, lack of medical and dental care, consistent dirtiness and lack of sufficient clothing.
Child neglect also comes in the form of lack of attention, love and nurturing. Most parents are engrossed in their pursuit for wealth that they loss right of their children. Parents should be able to spend quality time with their children. That bonding will be beneficial to both parties. It is the absence of parents in the lives of their children that often exposes to all forms of abuse and negative content. Child upbringing is the sole responsibility of parents and should not be delegated to any other individual. Neglected children often become victims of low physical, mental and psychosocial development. Such children often grow up with commitment issues. Most of them will find building and sustaining relationships very challenging later in life.
Child labour is another serious form of child abuse. Child labour is strenuous work performed children which endangers their health. Child labour is a product of neglect. It is often the fate of children poor into improvised homes. Families suffering from poverty often push their children into child labour. When the parents or guardians cannot afford the basic needs of a child, they are forced to take on menial jobs to earn ends meet. Other times, it is a result of sheer exploitation by foster parents and guardians. Any work that denies a child the right to education is an abuse. Any work that hinders the mental and physical development of a child is an abuse. We may argue that some work could help the child develop vocational skills and a sense of responsibility. However, employability and labour is for adults not children. It is the duty of parents to provide for their children not the other way round. The labour market is no place for a child. It exposes them to abusers, predators and negative influence.
The Product of Abuse
Child abuse causes more damage than we can imagine. It results in immediate or long term adverse effects. First, it is a threat to their life. Child abuse is one of the causes of child mortality. You may call it a mistake but that mistake can swipe an innocent child’s future completely. It disrupts the proper development of children introducing dysfunctional behavioral patterns.
May I inform you, perhaps you are unaware. Most abused children grow up to become abusers themselves. They grow up to be maltreating adults. They become beasts who breed more beasts. It is a vicious a vicious cycle of re-victimization that never ends. You can run a background check on women beaters, rapists and pedophiles. Chances are that they were once victims of abuse. Child abuse is one of the underlying triggers of personality disorders, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders, substance abuse, alcohol addiction, aggression, post-traumatic stress disorder, borderline personality disorder, cognitive impairment, adoption of health-risk behaviors, dissociative trauma and early death. Child abuse is an beast that will continually hunt us if we do not tame it now.
The Way Out
The only way we can curb child abuse is by doing right by our children and wards. You should be their superhero, protector and guardian. Do not be the one to inflict pain on them. Be a nurturing parent. Provide all the necessary resources your children need for their growth and development. Do not birth babies if you are not ready to have one. If you do give birth, please do right by that child. Let your children know that you love and care for them. Always affirm your love for them with kind words. Remind them of their worth. Encourage them to pursue their dreams even if it is not what you would have desired for them. Learn to administer discipline with a touch of moderation. There are other ways of encourage good behaviour in children aside from physical punishments. Please stop using your children as a vent for your anger and frustration. Deal with your inner demons privately and do not get them involved. When you seem overwhelmed by the troubles of life, take a time to sort yourself out. Do not take it out on your kids. Correct them in love. If you know nothing about parenting, go educate yourself. Perhaps you became a parent by accident or you had to fill in for some one. Sort for good materials on parenting and learn how to do it the right way.
Teach your children defense strategies against abusers and predators. No matter how hard you try cannot always be physically present with you children. You can’t sit with them all day in the classroom; you can go with them to summer camp or sleepovers. Remember you’ve got a life to live. The most you can do is to teach them what to do if danger arises in your absence. Supervise and regular your child’s televisions, video game, print media and internet consumption. Not everything out there is good for them. Be their friend and confidant so they can easily tell you everything without filters.
Raise awareness about child abuse. Children and parents should be educated on all forms of child abuse. They need to be aware that these things are real and they could happen to anyone. Teach them never to let their guards down because anyone could be suspect including; friends, relatives, family members, teachers, neighbors, church members, pastors, school mates etc. Such training sessions should include talk on self-defense, how to avoid risky situations, how to recognize signs of an abuser, understanding patterns of abuse, how to respond to abuse (if it happens) and how to seek professional help and intervention. Teach them their rights and how to protect their rights.
Report all cases of suspected child abuse. Do not encourage child abuse in any way or form. If you see any evidences of abuse or witness a child being harmed or abused, please report to the necessary authority immediately, not tomorrow, not next week, not next month. Report the offense immediately. Do not coax abused children to hide their pain. Teach them to speak out and expose the abuser. That is the first step to healing. Tell them they did the right thing by speaking up and reassure them that it was never their fault. Help them seek professional counseling and therapy.
Children are precious gifts. They were created to be loved, not abused. Say no to child abuse.
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