Stories of a child being abused in some shape or form is reported across all media and social platforms in our country daily. The stories range from truly horrific to……actually, let us be clear….abuse of any form is equally horrific. The physical wounds may heal, in some cases not fully, however the emotional wounds run deep, forever changing the way a child views the world around him or her and his or her place in that world.
We live in a country where figures of reported cases of child abuse are ridiculously high. How did we get to this place? And how can we be part of the change needed to create a world that our children feel safe in.
So, what are the forms of abuse?
Physical Abuse – intentional or careless causing of physical harm.
Emotional/Psychological Abuse – persistent verbal attacks, threats, rejection, isolation, belittling and name calling.
Neglect – failure to provide for basic needs.
Domestic Violence – exposure to emotional threats of or use of physical violence between family members.
Sexual Abuse – the use of power, force or authority to involve a child in any form of sexual behaviour.
The Children’s Amendment Act (13) mandates a wide range of professionals to report any suspicion of child abuse to the authorities. In terms of section 110, ordinary citizens are given the discretion to report abuse but are not compelled to do so. However, the Sexual Offences Act, (14) compels all citizens who are aware of the sexual exploitation of children to report the offence to the police. When must do the right thing. Reporting could very well save a child’s life.
The following are some of the signs that may indicate that a child is experiencing some form of abuse;
1. Changes in behaviour; appears scared, anxious, depressed, withdrawn or more aggressive than usual.
2. Reverting to earlier behaviours; thumb sucking, bedwetting, fear of the dark, or fear of strangers.
3. Fear of going home; apprehension or anxiety to leave school or going places with the person who is abusing them or exhibits an unusual fear of a familiar person or place.
4. Changes in eating; stress, fear, and anxiety can lead to changes in eating behaviour
5. Changes in sleeping; frequent nightmares or difficulty falling asleep, appearing tired or fatigued.
6. Changes in school performance and attendance; difficulty concentrating in school or excessive absences, sometimes due to adults trying to hide the child’s injuries from authorities.
7. Lack of personal care or hygiene; appears uncared for, presents as consistently dirty and has severe body odour, or lacks sufficient clothing for the weather.
8. Risk-taking behaviours; engages in high-risk activities such as drugs and/or alcohol use and/or carrying a weapon.
9. Inappropriate sexual behaviours; exhibits overly sexualized behaviour or uses explicit sexual language and may exhibit symptoms of a genital infection.
10. Unexplained injuries; exhibits unexplained burns or bruises in the shape of objects with unconvincing explanations of how he or she sustained the injury.