The video clip of a little girl being abused by her maid shocked the nation to the extent that for two weeks discussions have centered on that subject.
It is hard to imagine someone intentionally hurting a child, yet numerous children are abused by those who are supposed to take care of them. Unfortunately, many cases go unreported and undetected, often because children are afraid to tell somebody who can help, or are too young to report.
Most of the time children know their abusers and the abuse occurs in the home. This makes it difficult for children to speak up. They may feel trapped by the affection they feel for their abusers or fearful of the power the abusers have over them — so they remain silent. That is why it is especially important to be able to recognise the signs of child abuse.
Child abuse happens when a parent or other adult causes serious physical or emotional harm to a child. Generally speaking, child abuse can take the form of physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect and abandonment, and emotional or psychological abuse.
It is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between the ordinary scrapes and scratches of childhood and a physical sign of child abuse. Multiple bruises or those that keep coming back, black eyes, and broken bones are certainly red flags, but other signs — such as a child’s emotional health — are also telling.
Children who are being abused may act withdrawn, fearful, depressed, have low self-esteem, or engage in self-harm, like cutting. The most depressed children might contemplate suicide or attempt suicide. Other children become bullies and have problems managing their anger and other g emotions. Many have nightmares or trouble sleeping.
Those who are abused usually have trouble developing and maintaining relationships. They are often unable to love or trust others, especially adults, whom they can be fearful of. A telling sign that something is just not right is when a child fails to seek comfort from a parent or other caregiver who is an abuser.
Children who are being abused sometimes act out in class and are disruptive. They may lose interest in activities they once loved or lose focus on their schoolwork — and their grades may suffer. Drug and alcohol abuse, as well as sexual promiscuity, are also common. Other children may not act out in the typical ways, but will be reluctant to go home after school or doing any activity that would cause them to spend time alone with the abuser.
In addition to children who are being abused, those who witness abuse (but are not the victims themselves — like siblings) sometimes show similar signs. But just because a child is showing these signs, it doesn’t necessarily point to abuse. Children who are going through stressful situations, like parents’ separation or divorce, a family move, or the loss of a friend or family member, may undergo a change in their mood or disposition.
While not all suspicions and accusations of child abuse turn out to be true, all deserve serious attention and immediate action. But abuse doesn’t have to ruin a child’s life, as long as it is stopped and dealt with. The earlier abuse can be identified and stopped, the less destructive it will be. Healing from the abuse and dealing with its aftermath can also start that much earlier.
Source : The Observer