Parenting in today’s society is different then it was in the 80’s. Children need more supervision and boundaries. And with that comes discipline and creative correction. Our children need to be guided, taught right from wrong, shown the effects of a negative choice, and the benefits that can be reaped if they are obedient. However, some parents and adults cross a line that should never be crossed. Unfortunately so many families in the United States alone include someone that has been abused or someone that is currently a victim of child abuse. This article lists the different types of child abuse, what signs to look for if you think that a child may be abused, the long term effects, and available resources.
The major areas of child abuse are neglect, physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. Because there are different types of abuse, I’ve listed a brief description of each.
Child neglect is not providing for a child’s overall needs such as: food, shelter, and clothing. In addition to that the child may not be taken to the doctor for annual physicals or if they are sick. Children are often left alone, abandoned, ignored, or denied the basic needs that every human being needs and deserves. The perpetrator may not only deny the child the proper food, clothing, and shelter, they may also not allow or not feel it important for the child to attend school. So not only are the child’s basic needs not being fulfilled, their education is being jeopardized.
Physical abuse is harming a child by slapping, hitting, punching, kicking, choking, burning, and pulling hair, shaking, pinching, and any other “non-accidental” injury to a child.
Sexual abuse takes on many forms such as intercourse, fondling, penetration, forcing a child to witness sexual acts, pornography, child prostitution, oral sex, group sex, exploitation, and exhibitionism.
Emotional abuse involves, yelling, demeaning, screaming, verbally criticizing, putting down, cursing at, belittling, threatening, name calling, denying positive comments like saying “I’m proud of you”, but instead telling the child that they are “worthless”, a “failure”, “stupid”, “ugly”, etc. This kind of abuse damages the child’s self esteem, emotional development, and social well being.
Now that we’ve outlined the types of abuse who does it affect? Child abuse affects every race, religion, sex, and financial status. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, statistics in 2006 show that African-American children, American Indian or Alaska Native children, and children of multiple race had the highest rates of victimization at 19.8, 15.9, and 15.4 per 1,000 children of the same race or ethnicity, respectively. When it comes to the gender of victims 48.2 percent were boys and 51.5 percent of child victims were girls. Some cases report that death occurs as a result of physical abuse.
When it comes to the type of perpetrator, both male and female, family and non family members have been the offenders. When many people think of a child abuser they may come to the conclusion that men are more likely to be the perpetrator but statistics show that more women (58%) than men (42%) are perpetrators of child abuse and are usually of younger age. In addition to these rates it’s usually a single parent home that has the higher rate of child abuse.
There may be reasons “why” someone would choose to abuse a child and although there are stressors it doesn’t justify the behavior of the perpetrator. Stressors can include environment, economic situations, or drug and alcohol addictions. It is also reported that people who abuse were usually abused themselves as children. Studies show that children who are mentally or physically handicap, premature infants, infants with chronic medical problems, and children with behavioral problems are at high risk for becoming a victim of abuse.
For these children all they know is what was modeled for them so as they grow up the years of abuse will manifest itself in many ways. Patients struggle with mental disorders, aggressive behavior, post traumatic stress disorder, anger, anxiety, depression, low self esteem, substance abuse, violent behavior, depressive disorders, thoughts and suicidal risks are increased, dissociative disorders, and paranoid ideas. These things will have a major impact on not only themselves but also the people around them. Marriages can suffer and many that were abused go on to abuse their own children.
The top priority is the child’s safety but beyond that is helping the child get through the damage that’s been done to them. Most states have counseling programs for children and even adults that were abused in the early part of their lives. Although talking to someone may not miraculous change things, it is beneficial. There are also counseling centers that can help with rehabilitation therapy for the children that have grown older and are now using drugs and alcohol to medicate the pain that was inflicted on them.
Now that we know what child abuse is, who can be affected, and what kind of perpetrators there are, we need to be proactive to help prevent and stop the cycle. If you know that someone is being a victim of any type of abuse there are many places that you can contact to assist you in how to proceed, which are Child Protective Services, Children and Family Services, and The Department of Human Services all in your local area. There is also a 24 hour National Child Abuse Hotline that is available throughout the year 24 hours a day. With all the resources available it’s up to us to make the call and help someone that is unable to help themselves.
Being a parent doesn’t come with a manual and is not an easy job, but we have to be the best parents that we can be so our children will grow up and be healthy. We should model for them what it means to love, what it looks like to discipline in an appropriate way and we should encourage and love them for who they are. Our children are a gift and we should handle them with care.