Child abuse is so often talked of these days. Even, children themselves speak of it and sometimes, say they are being abused when asked to help with household chores, or upon being admonished and disciplined. On the other hand, when a child speaks of feeling uncomfortable about a particular person’s touch, parents and elders tend to brush it off as nothing as the child being too fussy.
Given the criticality of the subject and haziness that surrounds it, it is particularly important to have a clear understanding of what child abuse is all about and what its different forms are. Can something like household chores be labelled as child abuse? Or, can something as an uncomfortable touch be brushed off as a fussy child? Let’s look at it!
So, what is child abuse?
While there are many definitions of child abuse, this one seems to encompass it in its entirety and in an easy-to-understand manner. Child abuse is when a parent or caregiver, whether through action or failure to act, causes injury, death, emotional harm or risk of serious harm to a child. There are many forms of child maltreatment, including neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation and emotional abuse (childhelp.org).
There is a prevailing notion that child abuse is always an action. Seldom do we perceive child abuse to be due to inaction. But, as stated above, a child is said to be abused when he/she is injured or harmed or even caused to die, either through the action or inaction of a parent, elder, caregiver or any other person.
What are the different forms of child abuse?
A child can be abused in a number of ways:
- Emotional – when the child is deliberately and constantly scared, humiliated, isolated, ignored, spoken to harshly, threatened, etc. Emotional abuse, also known as psychological abuse and is often coupled with another form of abuse
- Physical – when the child is deliberately hurt causing injuries such as bruises, broken bones, burns, cuts, by kicking, hitting, poisoning, etc.
- Neglect – when the child’s needs are constantly unmet including leaving the child without food, adequate clothing, shelter, supervision, medical care, health care, cleanliness, love, care, attention, protection and safety, etc.
- Sexual – when the child is forced or persuaded to take part in sexual activities either through physical contact or without. Abuse through contact is when the child is involved in touching activities like sexually touching the child with or without clothes, rape or penetration of an object through anal or oral sex, forcing the child to touch the other’s genitals. Abuse through non-contact is when the child is made to watch porn or sexual activities, making the child to remove clothes or flash online, not taking proper measures to prevent the child from exposure to sexual activities by others. Children are exploited sexually by being offered money, gifts, etc. for sexual favours. Sometimes they are even tricked into believing that they are in a loving and consensual relationship.
- Bullying or cyberbullying – when the child is name called, hit, pushed around, threatened, etc. either in their physical environment or on the internet.
- Child trafficking – when the child is recruited, moved or transported and are then exploited, forced to work or are sold for various reasons such as fraud, forced marriage, domestic work, forced labour in brick kilns, rock quarries, factories, etc., criminal activity, commercial sex work, etc.
There are innumerable ways in which a child is abused and exploited. Their vulnerability makes them the easiest of preys and it is especially important for parents and primary caregivers to be aware of the various forms of child abuse. It is pivotal for children to be adequately educated on child abuse and its various forms and to be encouraged to be bold and speak up if and when they are victimised.
While the above mentioned is just a broad overview of child abuse, it is important for each individual to be extensively educated on this topic. So, the next time you hear a child say, “I’m being abused” when asked to help with household chores, or when a child tells you “I feel uncomfortable with the way that certain someone touches me”, all you need to do it weigh it against each of the points you just read and deal accordingly with the situation, in the best interest of the child.