WHAT IS CHILD ABUSE?
Child abuse is a prevalent issue faced by many children globally and locally today. According to The New Straits Times, the type of child abuse that’s most common in Malaysia are negligence, physical abuse and sexual abuse. The Welfare Department’s statistic shows that 14 child abuse cases are reported per day and in the last five years, 1559 cases were filed in Malaysia. It definitely hits home for most of us, as Sabah has also been reported seeing a disturbing surge in child sexual abuse cases with 221 registered within a two-year span as stated in Daily Express. While a number of these case gets reported, a large amount go undetected and unreported.
Child abuse occurs when a parent or caregiver causes significant harm to a child through through differing forms of child maltreatment such as:
· Child neglect: This often occurs when a parent or caregiver are unable to meet the basic needs of the child such as providing healthcare, clothing, housing as well as physical and emotional needs.
· Physical abuse: This type of abuse happens when parents or caregivers cause injury with harmful intent or unharmful intent. This type of abuse includes striking, kicking, burning, biting, hair pulling, throwing, shoving or whipping that causes injuries to a child.
· Emotional abuse: This includes any act including confinement, isolation, verbal assault, humiliation, intimidation, gaslighting, manipulation or other activities that inflicts a child’s self worth.
· Sexual abuse: This occurs when an adult uses a child for sexual purposes of gratification, examples of this abuse is making a child view a sex act, making a child view or show sex organs and inappropriate sexual talk.
CAUSES OF CHILD ABUSE
The causes of child abuse are a mixture of several reasons as included below:
· Parents with mental health illness
· Drug and substance abuse
· Poor childhood experiences
· Lack of parenting skills
Mental illness often punctuates a person’s character in detrimental ways affecting their thinking, mood, and behavior. It affects how they view life and at times makes everyday tasks difficult to do. While there are parents who are struggling with mental health issues who are in treatment to serve their child’s best interest, there are parents who don’t seek professional help and this in turn, will affect their ability to properly raise their children.
Next, is poverty. When parents struggle to make ends meet from circumstances that involve unemployment, financial problems, and high cost of living, this often leads to child neglect as they are unable to provide necessary needs of the child. Other than that, drug and substances abuse by parents compromises a child’s emotional, and physical development. When parents are solely focused on their drug use, this creates forms of child neglect and will cause children to be raised in an unstable and unstructured home.
For parents who have lived through poor childhood experiences, intergenerational trauma will most likely reappear in our parenting lives. We’ll generally perpetuate the same patterns of abuse with our own children from what we received when growing up. In continuing living in an abusive environment such as this, children will learn that violence and aggression are a viable mean to solve conflict and will most likely continue this cycle when they are adults.
Lastly, another reason for child abuse is lack of parenting skills. This has shown to have a long-term effect on children. While the gift of parenthood may come easy for some parents, some may not be able to adjust and adapt well to the needs and responsibilities of their children. This, in turn, will result in parents raising their children in ineffective ways, and when things don’t go as well as planned, they may take their frustration and anger on their children.
TYPE OF CHILD ABUSE AND ITS EFFECTS
On the surface, child abuse may seem small and inconsequential to some parents. There is a tendency to believe that the trauma will ride itself out, or, that it doesn’t exist at all. Unfortunately, neither of these options are right.
Oftentimes, child abuse has repercussions on children in an array of aspects such as:
· Physical health problems
· Mental health problems
· Suicidal behavior
· Eating disorder and obesity
· Alcohol and substance abuse
Firstly, adults with a history of negligence are more likely to experience physical health problems such as diabetes, gastrointestinal problems, arthritis, gynaecological problems, stroke and heart disease. As for mental health issues, adults who experienced physical, emotional and child neglect develop depression as the most commonly occurring condition alongside personality disorders such as post-traumatic disorder, anxiety disorder, stress disorder, dissociative disorder to name a few.
Next, consistent evidence has shown adults who experienced sexual abuse as a child are five times more inclined to attempt suicide while others who experienced physical and emotional abuse or, neglect as a child are two and a half times more likely to end their lives. Next, adolescents and young adults with a history of child sexual abuse and neglect are very likely to develop eating disorders and obesity and lastly, adults who experienced adverse childhoods such as sexual abuse and negligence were found to be susceptible to towards alcoholism and being involved in illicit drugs.
CHILD ABUSE PREVENTION
According to Prevent Child Abuse, there are several ways to prevent the maltreatment of children from happening. Following these steps will make a huge difference in your life, including your child’s.
1. Be a nurturing parent.
Children need to know that they are special, loved and capable of following their dreams.
2. Help a friend, neighbor or relative.
Being a parent isn’t easy. Offer a helping hand take care of the children, so the parent(s) can rest or spend time together.
3. Help yourself.
When the big and little problems of your everyday life pile up to the point you feel overwhelmed and out of control – take time out. Don’t take it out on your kid.
4. If your baby cries…
It can be frustrating to hear your baby cry. Learn what to do if your baby won’t stop crying. Never shake a baby – shaking a child may result in severe injury or death.
5. Get involved.
Ask your community leaders, clergy, library and schools to develop services to meet the needs of healthy children and families.
6. Help to develop parenting resources at your local library.
Find out whether your local library has parenting resources, and if it does not, offer to help obtain some.
7. Promote programs in school.
Teaching children, parents and teacher’s prevention strategies can help to keep children safe.
8. Monitor your child’s television, video, and internet viewing/usage.
Excessively watching violent films, TV programs, and videos can harm young children.
9. Volunteer at a local child abuse prevention program.
Volunteering at local child abuse prevention programs increases our knowledge in how to aptly handle child abuse issues.
10. Report suspected abuse or neglect.
If you have reason to believe a child has been or may be harmed, call your local department of children and family services or your local police department.
For more information and resources regarding this issue, you may log on to https://www.unicef.org/malaysia/ or if suspect a child is being harmed, call the emergency hotline 15999 to report the abuse.
Written by Eve Bandusena, Editorial Assistant