Do you know that child abuse can have underlying effects on the life of the child and, in most cases, remain unaddressed? If you are a parent or guardian, then follow this article to learn how to protect your children from child abuse.
Children are immature and need to be taken care of with extra care and affection. They depend on the caregivers for their needs and necessities, so it is important that the guardian acknowledges his role in the life of the child and makes sure to provide his child with all the security and care. It is a journey of parenting, and in this journey, the use of abuse can hurt the child and become his trauma.
In some cases, the guardian or parent unintentionally treats the child in an abusive manner which later becomes a childhood trauma in the future. This childhood trauma distresses him and affects his whole personality. Hence it is important for everyone to realize the consequences of child abuse.
A parent should know ways through which a child can be abused intentionally or unintentionally because the signs of abuse are not always addressed immediately. Hence, it is important to know about them so that one can prevent them from happening. This article will cover the type of child abuse and provide guidance to teach how you can protect your children from child abuse.
Table of Contents
What is child abuse?
When a child gets treated in a wrong manner, it harms him in an emotional or physical way. It can also be called neglect because the requirements to nourish the child are not being fulfilled.
Types of child abuse:
Children can get abused in any form, and the consequences of each state differ from the other. These different forms of abuse are as follows:
1. Physical abuse: All the physical violence that can cause pain to the child or cause any sort of injury is called physical abuse. It is not necessary that physical abuse will leave permanent scars on the body as shaking or choking do not leave any visible injury but are included in this category.
Minors and infants are more likely to go through such abuse as they depend on their guardians. They are not mature enough to recognize the severity of that moment and take precautionary measures to save themselves.
2. Emotional abuse: If a person closer to a child behaves in a hostile manner and affects his social and intellectual development, then it is called emotional abuse. A child needs care and affection, so when he is treated with wrath, he gets scared, and it grows negatively inside him. All kinds of rejection, bullying, or negative criticism are included in this type of abuse.
If someone constantly criticizes or threatens the child, it will destroy his mental peace, and it will later be evident in his personality. This abuse does not have any immediate signs of harm, but it can also devastate the life of the child.
3. Neglect: Every child needs to be nurtured as he has some needs which his guardian must fulfill for his healthier development. The guardian needs to make sure the child is being heard, fed, and surrounded in a secure environment, but when those requirements are not being fulfilled, the child gets neglected, and the outcome can be either in the form of emotional or physical deprivation.
It can be intentional and unintentional because sometimes the guardian is not properly aware of the needs of the child and ends up with basic nutrition and care. If a child is exposed to drugs or alcohol, then it will also be considered neglect since he is immature enough to realize the wrong. If the guardian or person around the child is addicted to drugs or alcohol, it can further draw the child’s attention to these things too. For this reason, neglect of any sort is called abuse.
4. Sexual abuse: If someone forces sexual contact upon a child, such as sexual injury, including injury/bruise around the genital area, or non-touching behaviors, including looking at the child’s naked body is called sexual abuse. It is also called child molestation.
Exposing the child to pornography is also included in this type of abuse; hence it is important to keep an eye on the child’s behavior and not leave him without supervision. It can affect both genders and children of all races, classes, and ages.
Why do you need to protect your child?
Children depend on their parents and other family members when they are growing up. All the people directly interacting with the child play an important role in his development, be it a sibling, teacher, or any other relative. Their behavior towards the child determines the personality of the child; hence it is important to treat children around you with love and care.
Sometimes intentionally or unintentionally, a child goes through neglect or behavior which hurts him. Especially when children are really young, they are unable to express their feelings and become victims of abuse. Anyone who treats the child in a harmful way, such as by slapping, hitting, shaking, or physically punishing him through any other means, can end up abusing him.
Who are the most common abusers?
The perpetrators of child abuse are commonly the people most trusted by the child. It can come from anyone in the house, and if the perpetrator is closely related to the child, then it is also called intra-family abuse. Moreover, the teacher, coach, or close relatives can be child abusers. If any stranger causes harm to the child, it will not specifically be a case of child abuse but a criminal matter.
A child subjected or manipulated into marriage is also a crime of child abuse. If a child is forced into a marriage, then all the people involved in it will be responsible for this abuse.
There are certain traits that increase the risk of child abuse, including unclear self-image, substance abuse, immaturity, and lack of interpersonal skills. The people who abuse children share these common traits.
A distorted image of one’s self affects all the actions in his life, including behavior with his child. As he has a negative image of himself, he develops hate for himself, and eventually, that hate is also diverted to his child, as a result of which he ends up harming him.
A person involved in substance abuse loses control over his mind, so the risk of him harming the child is increased. Immaturity refers to the lack of parenting knowledge which unintentionally leads him to harm the child. A lack of Interpersonal skills makes a person unaware of social interactions and relationship building.
If a parent or guardian has any of these traits, it will not only make the child go through abuse but will also transfer these traits into the child as children learn what they see around them. Hence, it will make him an abuser in the future. This transference of abuser traits that can increase the risk of making him an abuser is called the “cycle of child abuse”.
What are the signs of child abuse?
Abuse has short-term and long-term effects on children. Every case of child abuse is different, so every child reacts to it in a different way, but there are some common signs of abused children that can work as an indicator of abuse. These signs are divided into two categories:
A disturbance in the life of a human can be identified through their behavior, and children’s behaviors are candid, so one can easily get a clue from their behavior if there is something bothering their peace of mind. You can suspect abuse if:
- The child becomes anxious in every situation.
- The child does not try to socialize or interact with people.
- The child is unable to communicate with the parents.
- The child keeps himself isolated most of the time.
- The child is always in a defensive mode, even if he is in a secure environment.
- The child shows the sign of emotional trauma, such as fear, sadness, or agitation.
- The child is unable to relate to the children of his age.
- The child has disturbed sleep patterns or a fear of the dark.
- A decline in academic performance.
These are the visible indicators and could be detected easily, but there are some cases where the mark of abuse is not visible on the body but causes pain. You can suspect abuse if:
- The child has any bruises or injuries on his body.
- The child has different kinds of burns on his body, such as cigarette burns or immersion burns.
- The child has any skeletal injury such as injury or pain around the joints or fractures by pulling/twisting the arm of the child.
- If the child has bleeding or genital discharge.
- If the child’s clothes are torn or stained.
- Urinary infection or irritation around the genital area.
However, these above-mentioned indicators are not only restricted to child abuse, but they alarm a disturbance in the mind of children. One should not draw conclusions and refer to a professional person, as identifying the reason for any behavior is a critical matter. If you find your child going through any of these, you should find out the reason through professional help so that further actions can be taken.
Risk factors of child abuse
The presence of some characteristics around the child can result in his abuse or neglect. The perpetrator is the person closely interacting with the child and should be held responsible for the situation, but abuse occurs because of multiple factors. An abuser is a direct factor, but the reasons leading him to abuse are the indirect risk factors. These direct or indirect elements are called risk factors of child abuse. Some of the risk factors are as follows:
- If the guardian is going through any mental illness.
- If the guardian is not aware of parental precautions.
- If the guardian uses corporal punishment to correct the child’s wrong behavior.
- If the guardian grew up in a violent environment.
- If there is no positive interaction between the child and guardian.
- If the guardian is a step-parent.
- If the child is not wanted by the parents.
- If the child is not meeting the expectations of his guardian.
Preventive measures to end child abuse
It is the right of every child to be secured from child abuse no matter what economic class or region he belongs to. It is not only a guardian’s responsibility to provide security to the children of the society but a collective responsibility of everyone living in the society. Child abuse can only be abolished if all the people acknowledge their role and make efforts. These roles are divided into three categories:
- Role of Parents
- Role of family
- Role of Society
Role of parents
Parents are the caretakers of children and the first people that the child is surrounded by since the time of his birth. Children depend on their parents for their needs and requirements so parents need to make sure that they can contribute in the life of children in a positive and healthy way. Some of the key points are listed below:
- Create a positive bond with the child: Parents are the most influential people in the life of the child, so it is important for them to understand their role. They should generate a positive communication and listening environment where the children can talk to the parents without any hesitation.
- Be involved in the child’s life: Being involved refers to catering to the needs of the child and making sure that the child is being looked after properly. It is a way of showing affection because the child will rely on you and feel secure. It will also minimize the risk of any mental disturbance. If there ever comes a problem, your involvement will help you identify the situation and guide him toward the right path.
- Educate yourself about better parenting: All parents want good for their children, but if the parent is not literate about the measures to be taken for the welfare of the child, then the risk of child abuse increases. There are different resources through which parents can educate themselves about the ways to ensure the well-being and positive development of their child. Parent resilience is also a part of parent education as it is required to ensure a healthy environment around children.
- Identify the signs: Involvement in the life of a child is not only enough because if you are unaware of the signs of abuse, it can also be difficult for you to suspect it. Parents should look after the behavior of their child and identify if there is any difference in the behavior.
- Teach your children about their rights: It is important for parents to teach their children about safety precautions and how no one is allowed to harm them in any way. They should also be taught to speak up about any abusive situation because most children feel guilty and do not speak up. This does not imply that infants but children older than that should be told about their rights.
- Monitor the caretaker: If there is a third person involved in the upbringing of the child, then it is the parent’s duty to keep an eye on him/her. Make announced visits to the caregiver when he/she is alone with the child. Do not allow any substitute that you can not trust when the caregiver is absent.
Role of a family
Your child observes the interaction taking place among the family members and learns from it. A secure and comforting family can help the child develop positive traits and ensure healthy brain development. Some of the ways through which family can become a comforting place for child are:
- Provide support to parents: It is important for the family to provide the required emotional or financial aid to the parents so that parents are able to nurture the child in a better way. A parent with financial or emotional stress might neglect the child. If they find that parents are not aware of any important thing regarding healthcare, then they should educate them about it.
- Reach out to help: If you see a parent having an abusive trait, then it is your responsibility to reach out to help them by making them understand why it is wrong, and if they are not willing to understand, then you must report it to the police or official departments of child protection.
- A friendly environment for children: The environment of the family plays an important role in the nourishment of the child. He should be treated in a respectful and friendly manner so that if he goes through any abusive situation, he can ask you for help. If you see any child in the family coming to you, then assure them that they did the right thing.
Role of society
Within communities the ideas and the implementation of those ideas are adapted rapidly as people interact and learn from each other. A society can work together to abolish child abuse through following measures:
- Ensure safe and secure housing: The community should collectively make efforts to build healthy and secure houses where the children grow up in healthy environments. This can be done by setting examples for others by incorporating positive practices in your own home. It will influence other people to do the same.
- Support preventive programs: Most of the time, people do not even realize the existence of child abuse, and the severity of the situation is identified when it is reported. Therefore, it is important to initiate and participate in programs and events that raise awareness about child abuse so that we can prevent its occurrence.
What are the long-term effects of child abuse?
Every type of abuse has its own consequences, but the mental health of the child is disturbed in all the existing types. There are short-term and long-term effects on the cognitive development of the child. There is a high risk of children developing mental illnesses in the future, such as mental retardation, low self-esteem, anxiety, PTSD, drug or alcohol addiction, etc.
If the child abuse case gets reported, then it is required by both the child and the abuser to go through therapy, as therapies can help address the underlying issues related to neglect or abuse. For the child, a thorough examination is carried out to determine the extent of abuse and then provide a suitable treatment. For the abuser, it can help to identify the reason for the toxicity through the right methods and address it directly.
Child abuse is a form of abuse that exists in all the society but is the most critical abuse to identify as it comes from a trusted person, and the victim is a minor, so it goes unaddressed in most cases. It causes damage to the development of children and gives birth to several inconveniences in the future. It becomes difficult for the victim to bounce back to normal life and recover from it.
Hence, it is an alarming issue that needs the collective effort of all the people, among which parents hold the utmost importance. Parents should make sure that their child is secured and given all the basic emotional and physical necessities so that he can grow up in a healthy environment.