Dealing with Child Abuse
February 7, 2021
Child abuse is when harm or threat of harm is made to a child. It is any act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caregiver which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, and sexual abuse or exploitation of a child. Child abuse is a worldwide problem with no social, ethnic or racial bounds. Therefore, child protection is a duty to all; a responsibility for adults and institutions with roles in ensuring the safety and humane care of children under their care.
When we talk about child abuse, what usually comes to mind is physical abuse; black eyes, visible bruises, broken arms etc. While physical abuse is shocking due to the marks it leaves, not all signs of abuse are as obvious. Ignoring a child’s needs, putting them in harm’s way, exposing them to sexual situations, or making them feel worthless or stupid are all forms of child abuse and the effects are serious and long-lasting. Child abuse therefore ranges from physical to emotional, sexual, verbal abuse and neglect.
Child abuse can affect all kinds of kids, no matter their background. It can be done by a parent, a stepparent, a family member, care giver, teacher, another kid, anyone. Child abuse can happen anywhere: home, church, school etc. No one and no place can be safe or trusted enough for kids. This is why it is important to take preventive measures to ensure the child is not abused at all. However, the focus of this article, is dealing with child abuse; children who have suffered abuse already.
What can be done to help a child who has been abused or violated? Surely all hope is not lost.
It is usually difficult to detect child abuse, unless one creates an atmosphere that would encourage disclosure. Most times, children who have suffered abuse in one way or the other find it difficult to report the situation. If you suspect a child is suffering from abuse or neglect, it is important to speak out. By identifying the problem early enough, the child can get the help needed for his or her healing.
The warning signs of abuse to look out for include:
- Being excessively withdrawn
- Being detached from the parents or caregiver
- Unexplained bruises or injuries
- Flinching at sudden movements or shying away from touch
- Consistent bad hygiene
- Unattended illnesses and injuries
- Consistent lateness to school or frequently missing school
- Trouble walking or sitting
- Trying to run away from home
If a child tells you he or she has been abused, take the situation seriously. First, encourage the child to tell you what happened. Remain calm and assure the child that it is okay to talk about the experience even if he or she was threatened by the abuser. If possible, record the first conversation to make sure nothing is left out. Avoid asking leading questions; just allow them tell their full story.
Remind the child that it is not his or her fault. This is important because abused children tend to feel guilty especially after being manipulated or groomed by their abusers. Let the child know that you are available to talk at any time and that you can be trusted.
The next step is to report to a local child protective agency or the police. While investigation is going on, take steps to ensure the child’s safety by keeping the child away from the abuser. Ensuring safety includes seeking medical attention immediately, especially where the child was physically or sexually abused. You might also need to help the child seek counseling or other mental health treatment.
Ensure you follow up until justice is secured for the child. This gives the child hope for healing and sets an example for other abusers. It also helps restore some sanity to the society.
The management of child abuse can be complicated and often requires a multidisciplinary approach, involving professionals who will identify the cause of the abuse or neglect, treatment of the immediate problems and referral of the child to the relevant child protection authority for action. It is also important for every adult to take responsibility for the safety of our children. Together, we can end child abuse.