Child abuse is more than bruises and broken bones. While physical abuse might be the most visible, other types of abuse, such as emotional abuse and neglect, also leave deep, lasting scars. The earlier abused children get help, the greater chance they have to heal and break the cycle—rather than perpetuate it. By learning about common signs of abuse and what you can do to intervene, you can make a huge difference in a child’s life.
Understanding child abuse and neglect
Child abuse isn’t just about black eyes. While physical abuse is shocking due to the marks it leaves, not all child abuse is as obvious. Ignoring children’s needs, putting them in unsupervised, dangerous situations, or making a child feel worthless or stupid are also child abuse. Regardless of the type of child abuse, the result is serious emotional harm. But there is help available. If you suspect a child is being abused, it’s important to speak out. By catching the problem as early as possible, both the child and the abuser can get the help they need.
All types of child abuse and neglect leave lasting scars. Some of these scars might be physical, but emotional scarring has long lasting effects throughout life, damaging a child’s sense of self, their future relationships, and ability to function at home, at work and at school. Some effects include:
Lack of trust and relationship difficulties :- If you can’t trust your parents, who can you trust? Without this base, it is very difficult to learn to trust people or know who is trustworthy. This can lead to difficulty maintaining relationships in adulthood. It can also lead to unhealthy relationships because the adult doesn’t know what a good relationship is.
Core feelings of being “worthless” :- If you’ve been told over and over again as a child that you are stupid or no good, it is very difficult to overcome these core feelings. As they grow up, abused kids may neglect their education, or settle for low-paying jobs, because they don’t believe they are worth more. Sexual abuse survivors, with the stigma and shame surrounding the abuse, often struggle with a feeling of being damaged.
Trouble regulating emotions :- Abused children cannot express emotions safely. As a result, the emotions get stuffed down, coming out in unexpected ways. Adult survivors of child abuse can struggle with unexplained anxiety, depression, or anger. They may turn to alcohol or drugs to numb out the painful feelings.
Abusive behavior comes in many forms, but the common denominator is the emotional effect on the child. Whether the abuse is a slap, a harsh comment, stony silence, or not knowing if there will be dinner on the table, the end result is a child that feel unsafe, uncared for, and alone.
Emotional abuse :-
Neglect :-" Child neglect—a very common type of child abuse—is a pattern of failing to provide for a child's basic needs, whether it be adequate food, clothing, hygiene, or supervision. Child neglect is not always easy to spot. Sometimes, a parent might become physically or mentally unable to care for a child, such as with a serious injury, untreated depression, or anxiety. Other times, alcohol or drug abuse may seriously impair judgment and the ability to keep a child safe.
Physical abuse :- Physical abuse involves physical harm or injury to the child. It may be the result of a deliberate attempt to hurt the child or excessive physical punishment. Many physically abusive parents insist that their actions are simply forms of discipline—ways to make children learn to behave. But there is a big difference between using physical punishment to discipline and physical abuse.
physical abuse, the following elements are present :
Unpredictability :- The child never knows what is going to set the parent off. There are no clear boundaries or rules. The child is constantly walking on eggshells, never sure what behavior will trigger a physical assault.
Lashing out in anger :- Physically abusive parents act out of anger and the desire to assert control, not the motivation to lovingly teach the child. The angrier the parent, the more intense the abuse.
Using fear to control behavior :- Parents who are physically abusive may believe that their children need to fear them in order to behave, so they use physical abuse to “keep their child in line.” However, what children are really learning is how to avoid being hit, not how to behave or grow as individuals.Sexual abuse :-
Child sexual abuse is an especially complicated form of abuse because of its layers of guilt and shame. It's important to recognize that sexual abuse doesn't always involve body contact. Exposing a child to sexual situations or material is sexually abusive, whether or not touching is involved.
Sexually abused children are often tormented by shame and guilt. They may feel that they are responsible for the abuse or somehow brought it upon themselves. This can lead to self-loathing and sexual and relationship problems as they grow older.
The shame of sexual abuse makes it very difficult for children to come forward. They may worry that others won’t believe them, will be angry with them, or that it will split their family apart. Because of these difficulties, false accusations of sexual abuse are not common, so if a child confides in you, take them seriously.
Anything you do to support kids and parents can help reduce the stress that often leads to abuse and neglect. By educating yourself – and others – you can help your community prevent child abuse and neglect from happening in the first place.The behavior of children may signal abuse or neglect long before any change in physical appearance. If you suspect abuse or neglect may be occurring, report it.
Number One Be a nurturing parent. Children need to know that they are special, loved and capable of following their dreams. Learn about how children grow and mature and have realistic expectations of what your child can and cannot do.
Number Two Help a friend, neighbor or relative. Being a parent isn’t easy. Someone you know may be struggling with his or her parenting responsibilities. Offer a helping hand- take care of the children, so the parent(s) can rest or spend time together.
Number Three Help yourself. When the big and little problems of everyday life pile up to the point you feel overwhelmed and out of control – take time out. Don’t take it out onyour kid. Take a deep breath. Turn on some music. Know who to call for help, and keep the numbers next to your phone.
Number Four Respect kids. Treat them the same way you want to be treated.
Number Five Get involved. Advocate for services to families. Help to establish parenting groups in your community. Ask your community leaders, clergy, library and schools to develop services to meet the needs of healthy children and families.
Number Six Help to develop parenting resources at your local library – films, books, and information.
Number Seven Promote programs in schools. Teaching children, parents and teachers prevention strategies can help to keep children safe.
Number Eight Monitor your child’s television and video viewing. Watching violent films and TV programs harms young children. It scares them, and teaches children that aggression is a good way to handle frustration and solve problems.
Number Nine Volunteer at a local child abuse program. There are many family support, crisis need volunteers to help families under stress. Contact your local United Way office or look in a telephone directory for agencies in your community. If you can’t give time, support the program with a donation.
Number Ten Report suspected abuse or neglect. Keeping children safe is the responsibility of every adult in the community. If you have reason to believe a child has been or may be harmed