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Child abuse is not a strange phenomenon in our society. There is no safe place for children anymore because it is everywhere: home, school, street, religious houses are all possible places for child abuse. Also it can be performed by siblings, parents, teachers, guardians and so-called mentors. What is child abuse? Literally, it is any form of maltreatment given to a child. It occurs when an elder one, parent or guardian cause harm, injury, risk or death to a child by their actions. Harmful behaviours from parents, older people, and care-givers can be intentional or not. Any form of behaviour that leads to the physical or emotional harm to a child is known as ‘Child abuse or Maltreatment’ according to the section 9 of the Child Protection Act, 1999. Child abuse is punishable under the law and is frowned at by the Child’s Protection Agency.
Both boys and girls are abused. Parental act defined as child abuse differs from one culture to another and from one stage of child’s development to another. What is seen as child abuse in Western States could be seen as normal or a way of discipline in non-Western States. The ways of dealing with a youth may be a form of abuse when done to a young child. Child abuse can come in various ways; it could be in form of neglect, physical, sexual, emotional abuse. Physical abuse is when physical injury is being inflicted on a child or when a physical force is used on a child which causes the child harm. It include acts like beating, biting, throwing, hitting, shaking, pinching, punching, kicking, poisoning, burning, slapping, strangling which may or may not leave physical marks. Physical abuse could be accidental or not and might result from punishment.
Sexual abuse occur when an adult forcefully have sexual activity or activities with someone against their wish. This kind of abuse is defined as any act that exposes a child to sexual acts that transcends his understanding. It becomes child abuse when done to a child under the age of 16. This include behaviours such as rape, incest, oral sex, touching a child’s sexual organs (read about sexually transmitted disease here) , showing pornography to a child, child trafficking and all forms of sexual activities done by someone in higher authority or greater power than the child such as siblings, parents, teachers, elder ones around, members of the family, maids, gate keeper and so on.
Another type of child abuse is emotional abuse also known as psychological abuse. It occurs when a child’s emotions, social life and intellect is being tampered with. Yelling at a child, bullying are examples which may affect the child’s self confidence and self esteem. A child’s emotion is affected if he witnesses fights at home or if he is from a broken home. Emotional abuse also occurs in the school, by seniors or bullies, teachers and adults. When the basic needs (food, clothing, shelter, education, health) of a child are not met, such a child is being neglected. Neglect is a form of abuse this usually happens is when a care-giver ignores the child and does not care about the existence and well being of the child.
Children that have been victimized by one or more form(s) of abuse exhibit some behaviours different from others. There is always lack of trust in people because they have been disappointed and abuse by those that ought to be source of joy, trust, defense and security to them, they believe nowhere is safe and nobody is to be trusted. This leads to changes in behaviour such as emotional pain, physical pain, withdrawal from opposite sex, poor academic performance, poor social relationship, anxiety, mental stress, depression, difficulty in socializing, sadness, poor academic performance, hooliganism, thuggery, rebellious, malnourishment, anger, scars on body parts, addictions, sexual difficulties, unhealthy appearance and clothing.
Abused children perform less than their mates. They feel distracted and withdrawn from other students, and teachers and then from their studies. A sexually abused female (read about sexual transmitted disease here) student may have a great hatred for her male teachers. This will affect her learning process and personal relationship with teachers. This is also the same for male children that are abused by the opposite sex. Since teachers have a great impact on the lives of children, a poor relationship with them can lead to low academic performance (Read about how to improve Teacher-Student Relationship Here). Truancy and social vices are exhibited by students that are neglected. Some are hostile and violate to other students and their mates which may lead to their expulsion. Physical abused children encounter problems at home, school, among their mates.
Students that are neglected by their parents or care-givers tend to be independent, lack moral values, rude to teachers, law breakers as a result of lack of parental roles especially the motherly roles and advice. On the other hand, some children might be too dependent, have low confidence, self esteem, psychologically affected and might not be able to face challenges or solve high tasking work in school. They tend to have lower grades and high rate of class repetitions than their mates. In a bid to hide their scars from others, they tend to skip school and classes. A child that is not eating well will have poor growth and development of the brain, body and soul. He/she will not be able to reason well or think fast in class.
What Is The Way Forward?
Prevention is better than cure. We should not wait until children around us are abused before we take necessary steps. Safe and secured environment should be provided for the children. Children should be watched and warned against unhealthy relationship and environment. They should be taught sex education and sexual related behaviour. Parents should be aware of changes in their children’s behaviours such as bed wetting, sulking, anxiety, afraid of the dark or been left alone with strangers, begging for food, theft, changes in academic performance. Children should not be left alone in the house with opposite gender and with personalities that cannot be trusted. They should find time to discuss with their children and meet their needs. Care-givers should provide adequate needs for their wards. Interest and support should be given to abused children. Parents should have listening ears.
Also, teachers and school authorities should take note of behavioural changes in their students. Any drop in academic performance should be reported to parents. They should be friendly and free with their students. Word of encouragement should always be given to students. Victims of abuse should not be castigated or looked down on. Their self esteem, confidence and morale should be developed. Meals and snacks should be provided in schools for students. This will reduce theft and help in brain and cognitive development which will have some positive effect on academic performance. Any teacher or students seen as threat should be punished and sent away. Extra curriculum activities should be organized by schools to help student’s foster relationship with others. The law should not spare those that abuse children. Also, the government can help by taking full custody of helpless children.