Child Abuse – A Painful Reality behind Closed Doors
Childhood is the most significant phase of a person’s life. It is the stage where a child can freely engage with the world and commands his/her parents’ complete attention. At this age, lack of sexual awareness makes a child vulnerable to abuse. Violence against children is a critical public social issue which needs to be addressed in our country.
A recent study report highlighted that violence to a child can be portrayed in different forms, including physical and psychological harm (e.g. rape or aggressive behaviour) and it can take place in the home, neighborhood, at school or at work and in legal and child protection institutions as well.
Child abuse constitutes many types i.e physical, sexual, emotional and neglect. First of all physical abuse comprised of physically harming a person with hands, burning, throwing something over another person. Secondly, child sexual exploitation may involve exposing genitals of a child, touching a child’s genitals or make him forcefully touch an adult’s private part. Next comes emotional abuse, in which children are emotionally disturbed due to inappropriate behavior of their caregivers. Lastly, neglect from the side of parents for not providing proper health, food, education and protection to their child leads to child abuse.
As a health care provider, I encountered a case during my pediatric clinical rotation where I encountered a young little girl who was silent and sad, her mother was crying continuously and her father was getting angry at her mother. Afterward I came to know from another health care provider that the girl had been transferred from Hyderabad hospital as her uncle had recently attempted sexual acts on her. Although she managed to escape at that time, later when her father came to know of the incident, without understanding the situation, he badly beat her.
A report was given in which total of 2,252 children were reported who were the victims of child abuse in year 2010 while 2788 cases were reported in 2011 annually. But the statistics of unreported cases are far more as compared to reported cases, as children may feel fearful to tell anyone about what happened with them and due to this abusers performs such acts fearlessly.
Simultaneously, in such conservative societies, families fear that their daughters’ status will be ruined, she won’t be able to get a good proposal of marriage in future. Also, culturally parents believe that discussing this issue with their child is not appropriate and eventually it may affect their relationship as well.
Violence against children is a risk factor for deprived early child development. Child abuse may lead to many negative outcomes across a lifespan, which includes emotional and behavioral problems.
Child sexual abuse is a vital issue for generating mental and physical problems among children which may end up till adulthood also. These mental and physical problems include symptoms of depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, social problems, substance abuse and impaired relationships with other members of family. It can also have long term effects also which imposes attitude problem in work environment, lack of interest towards sex, unusual aggressiveness, suicidal behavior, mental disorder and isolation.
A number of myths and facts are associated to child sexual abuse that these uncertain acts are performed by strangers only. In addition to it some people think that the vicitim of sexual abuse will end up in future as a sex offender. Moreover, the victim is always a girl and last of all, people usually think that children are making stories regarding abuse.
“Children are great imitators, so give them something great to imitate.” – Anonymous
The most central role as a parent is that when they come across such kind of situation they should first provide comfort to their child. We, as health care providers, and parents should teach children as per age about proper sexual behavior.
Moreover, children should be taught how to say “no” if somebody attempts to touch private body parts that makes them uncomfortable. If the stranger seeks to commit abuse over a child, they should shout and run away from the particular situation. Sometimes, abusers may ask a child after such brutal acts that will you tell all this to your parents? At that point in time say “No” to them but soon as you reach home let it be known to your parents. Parents should share everything with their child and maintain friendly relationships with each other.
At the institutional level, school management should be encouraged to arrange awareness programs that focuse on educating both teachers and students about abuse and several ways to handle it. Besides this, media can also empower community by spreading awareness among the citizens of nation. Moreover, home based parenting programs should be arranged in order to prevent child neglect.
In conclusion, children have the right to be protected from child abuse and if they have been abused they should receive necessary health services. A health care service provider should work with NGOs and governmental organizations to work for the betterment of the victims of abuse. Violence impacts whole society and is a vital health concern in Pakistan.
Asca.org.au,.(n.d.). There are lots of myths about child abuse what are they?. Retrieved 15 August 2014, from http://www.asca.org.au/about/resources/myths-about-child-abuse.aspx
Jabeen, T. (2014). Child Protection Data: an analysis of Newspapers Coverage of child protection issues in Pakistan. South Asian Studies, 29, 1.
Stavrianopoulos, T., &Gourvelou, O. (2012).The role of the nurse in child sexual abuse in USA.Health Science Journal, 6(4).
Wohab, M., & Akhter, S. (2010).The effects of childhood sexual abuse on children’s psychology and employment.Procedia-Social And Behavioral Sciences, 5, 144—149.
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