Child abuse is widespread across the world today and can be found in any culture, ethnicity, and economic background. It basically means an action by any other person, whether an adult or another child, who causes harm to a child. It can be sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse or intentional neglect. This is the sad reality but what’s even sadder is that most of the times, this abuse happens within the family itself. It’s usually a parent or a caregiver who abuses the child inside the safe place of home itself.
What are some signs and symptoms to identify a child who has been abused?
• The child would have physical marks on their body, they would lack confidence and would always seem nervous and scared.
• In some cases, the child might seem to loose weight very quickly and would need a lot of attention.
• But more often than not, the child would be unwilling state openly what has been happening with him/her for the being of being judged, or being abused even more if someone at home finds out about it.
What does such abuse result to?
A child, at a tender age, going through so many things at home can find it impossible to face the world. The first person whom a child trusts and forms a relationship with is a parent. But when that same parent violates that trust and hurts their own child physically or sexually, it can be world-shattering for the child.
Young ones, who have no clue what is happening with them, can’t even voice out these foreign activities and share their pain. The ones who do understand also can’t speak up for various reasons. The dilemma for them is: whom can they trust if their own parent, who gave birth to them can’t be trusted? This can lead to problems in the development of emotional as well as mental skills and capabilities of the child. Children in these cases, tend to keep their feelings bottled up, unable to speak out.
They can’t find anyone to share whatever they are going through. These bottled up feelings usually tend to channelize itself and come out in form of pent up anger. The child tends to replicate the actions happening with him/her on others in their vicinity. This aggression ends up harming the child and others around them to a great extent.
On the contrary, the child can also come under extreme stress and seep into depression. Emotional and verbal abuse, which is really common in our country, tends to stress out the child a lot. With societal pressures and abuses from the sphere of home, the child can crack and move into a state of depression.
The children tend to think that what is happening with them is because of their own fault, there must be something wrong with them and that is why they are being punished. With these thoughts, they can develop self-hatred. Children tend to engage in self-harm, in order to punish themselves for being the “bad child”. Being in depression can severely harm all the aspects of the child’s life. Once someone is affected by depression, it becomes very difficult to overcome it unless they seek help regularly and given a non-judgemental environment.
What to do in such a situation?
It becomes very important for any adult, probably a counsellor or a teacher, in an abused child’s life to help them.
The first step in this process is to identify the child itself. Whenever a child shows signs of extreme aggression, or on the opposite, being too closed off and extremely nervous in any situation, the adult around them needs to step up and talk to the child. Such children desperately need someone to talk to and get everything out of their system. If a non-threatening and safe environment is maintained for them, the child would willingly trust the person. After all, what such children need the most is love and care of someone older than them whom they can trust. By giving the confidence and encouragement to the child, they can be slowly pushed to open up and come out of their shell and not be scared.
The child can be encouraged to report the parents but that is what they fear the most, going against their own parents. It takes a lot of time, but with children, one needs to have a lot of patience. If this process is hurried, the child might me harmed even more, rather than being helped.
The child’s teachers also play a crucial role here. To understand what the child is going through and not being judgemental. Usually, if the child is too aggressive, they are simply termed as being naughty. If the child is too quiet or scared and tends to stay alone, it is considered as their natural behaviour. The teachers have to identify such students and help them get the support they need. But first of all, they have to believe them and trust what the child is sharing. We have to understand that it takes a lot of courage for the child to say it all out.
Child abuse is the harsh reality that many children have to face on a daily basis, even within their own homes. What the other adults around them can do is help the child as much as they can by believing them, giving them all the love and care that they need. There are many foundations and organisations which work to help such children who face abuse. One of them is RAHI which helps children emotionally and legally who are facing with sexual abuse.