It is unfortunate that in spite of the noise and uproar against the abuse of children, this evil still persists in our society. Government and Non-Governmental organisations have been shouting themselves hoarse in protest yet the vice is condoned.
A fundamental problem is that most people do not even have a full picture of what constitutes child abuse, therefore, it is futile to fight a phenomenon you do not know. Some people see child abuse as physical alone, but not all child abuse is obvious. While physical abuse might be the most visible, other types of abuse such as emotional abuse or child neglect also leave deep, long lasting scars.
Some just see child abuse as physical mistreatment of a child but it can be physical or psychological/emotional mistreatment of children. It is the mistreatment or any act or series of acts of commission or omission that results in harm, potential harm, or threat of harm to a child. Unfortunately, most child abuse occurs in the home, with some occurring in schools and other places the child interacts.
According to the Journal of Child Abuse and Neglect, child abuse is “any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation, an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm”.
For better understanding, neglect is where the responsible adult fails to provide adequately for various needs, including physical, emotional, educational, or medical. While physical abuse is physical aggression directed at a child by an adult. It can involve striking, choking, or shaking a child.
In our culture, a line is not drawn between child discipline and abuse. Some cultural norms though acceptable, constitute abuse. Many abusive parents insist that their actions are forms of discipline. The point of disciplining a child is to teach right from wrong and not to destroy the child and make him live in fear. Parents who are physically abusive most times, feel their children need to fear them in order to behave, so they use physical abuse to make them “behave”, but what the child learns in fact is to avoid being hit (punishment) and not how to behave or grow as an individual.
Out of all the possible forms of abuse, emotional abuse is the most difficult form of abuse to define, but it is the commonest and highly devastating. It could include name calling, ridicule, degradation, excessive criticism and humiliation. Childhood verbal abuse has a strong association with anger and hostility than any other type of abuse.
The earlier abused children get help, the greater chance they have to heal from their abuse and not perpetuate the cycle. It is very important to act fast because child abuse plunges the child into a vicious circle because most abused children have greater propensity of becoming abusers themselves, worse still they become depressed or have personality disorder.
As earlier mentioned, it is shameful that most forms of abuse take place in the home. Most sexual abuse offenders are people who are acquainted with the victims, this is why parents should always be alert. Some parents are distanced from their children that they cannot hold fruitful discussions. Win the confidence of your children so they can talk to you freely. Take what they say to you seriously and act.
Parents should be alert and probe excessive withdrawal, fearfulness, anxiety and display or interest in sexual acts inappropriate to his or her age. Have realistic expectations of what children can handle or do at certain ages to avoid getting angry at them. Also learn to control your emotions and adopt appropriate disciplinary technique and set clear boundaries for your child. Where a child confides in you, do not show anger or disgust so the child can tell the whole truth, try to remain calm. Most importantly, report and tackle abusers so as to serve as deterrent to others.