Child Abuse Awareness
Child abuse is the physical, sexual or emotional mistreatment of children by a parent, guardian or any person to whom the care of a child was entrusted or by persons unknown to the child that results in harm, potential for harm, or threat of harm to a child.
There are several types of child abuse, but the core element that ties them together is the emotional effect on the child.
Children need predictability, structure, clear boundaries, and the knowledge that their parents are looking out for their safety. Abused children cannot predict how their parents will act. Their world is an unpredictable, frightening place with no rules. Whether the abuse is a slap, a harsh comment, stony silence, or not knowing if there will be dinner on the table tonight, the end result is a child that feels unsafe, uncared for and alone.
Breaking The Cycle Of Child Abuse
What should you do if you suspect that a child has been abused? How do you approach him or her? Or what if a child comes to you? The situation can be overwhelming but it should not be ignored.
You can make a tremendous difference in the life of an abused child, especially by taking steps to stop the abuse. When talking with an abused child, the best thing you can provide is calm reassurance and unconditional support. Let your actions speak for you if you’re having trouble finding the words.
Remember that talking about the abuse may be very difficult for the child. It’s your job to reassure the child and provide whatever help you can.
Tips for talking to an abused child
Avoid denial and remain calm - A common reaction to news as unpleasant and shocking as child abuse is denial. However, if you display denial to a child, or show shock or disgust at what they are saying, the child may be afraid to continue and will shut down. As hard
as it may be, remain as calm and reassuring as you can.
Don’t interrogate - Let the child explain to you in his or her own words what happened, but don’t interrogate the child or ask leading questions. This may confuse and fluster the child and make it harder for them to continue their story.
Reassure the child that they did nothing wrong. It takes a lot for a child to come forward about abuse. Reassure him or her that you take what is said seriously, and that it is not the child’s fault.
Safety comes first. - If you feel that your safety or the safety of the child would be threatened if you try to intervene, leave it to the professionals. You may be able to provide more support later after the initial professional intervention.
Who Abuses Children?
Child abuse crosses all racial, economic, and cultural lines. It does not pertain to one set of people. Even children from what appears to be 'good homes' are abused.
Not all abusers intentionally harm their children. Many have been victims of abuse themselves, and don’t know any other way to parent. Others may be struggling with mental health issues or a substance abuse problem.
People who sexually abuse children often appear kind, concerned and caring towards children. This is part of building a close relationship with the child and which allows the abuser to avoid being suspected or discovered.
While abuse by strangers does happen, most abusers are family members or others close to the family.
Risk Factors For Child Abuse And Neglect
Child abuse and neglect occurs in all types of families and that includes families that look happy from the outside, but children are are greater risk where there is:
Domestic violence - Witnessing domestic violence is amounts to emotional abuse of children. Even if a mother tried to protect her children and keep them from being physically abused, the situation is still extremely damaging. Getting out of abusive relationships is the best thing for protecting children.
Alcohol and drug abuse - Living with an alcoholic or addict is very difficult for children and can easily lead to abuse and neglect. Drunk or 'High' parents are unable to make good parenting decisions, and control often-dangerous impulses. Substance abuse also commonly leads to physical abuse.
Untreated mental illness - Parents who suffering from depression, an anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, or another mental illness have trouble taking care of themselves, much less their children. A mentally ill or traumatized parent may be distant and withdrawn from his or her children, or quick to anger without understanding why.
Lack of parenting skills - Some parents and especially teen parents and parents who were abused themselves might lack the skills and knowledge to care for babies and small children. In such cases, parenting classes and therapy are great resources for learning better parenting skills.
Stress and lack of support - Parenting can be a very time-intensive, difficult job, especially if you’re raising children without support from family, friends, or the community or you’re dealing with relationship problems or financial difficulties.
Caring for a child with a disability, special needs, or difficult behaviors is also a challenge. It’s important to get the support you need, so you are emotionally and physically able to support your child.