Child abuse is a very common thing in today’s society, although not much is heard about it. The abuse occurs in the home where the bruises can be hidden. The emotional and physical scars are hidden behind clothes, makeup and lies. There are four different types of abuse suffered every day by children all across the world. The four different types are physical, sexual, emotional and psychological. The abuse leaves scars with children for the rest of their lives, physical scars, but the one’s that cause the most pain are the emotional scars, the scars that last forever.
Child abuse is the intentional use of physical force or intentional omission of care by a parent or caretaker that causes a child to be hurt, maimed, or killed. In the Canada the exact incidence of child abuse and neglect is unknown, but is recognized as a major social problem. Under Provincial laws requiring physicians – and encouraging other persons – to report incidents of suspected abuse, more than two million cases of neglect and physical abuse are reported annually.
Child abuse covers a wide range of parental actions that results in harm being inflicted on children of all ages. The kind of abuse, however, varies with age. Infants and preschool children are most likely to suffer deliberately inflicted fractures, burns, and bruises. This is known as the battered child syndrome, first
identified during the 1960’s. Historically, reported cases of sexual abuse, ranging from molestation to incest, primarily involve male perpetrators and school-aged or adolescent female victims. More recently, however, a growing number of pre-school victims have been identified. Perhaps the most prevalent type of abuse is neglect – that is, physical or emotional harm resulting from a parent’s failure to provide a child with adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, education, and moral training. A common symptom of neglect among young children is underfeeding; an undernourished infant often fails to thrive and may even die. In the age range between eight and seventeen years, neglect, as opposed to physical or sexual abuse, was involved in about seventy percent of all validated reports of mistreatment in the United States in a recent year (Encarta, 1997).
Physical abuse is any physical action toward another person: pushing, hitting, whipping, biting, holding down, throwing, slapping, and spanking. Physical violence can produce bruises, concussions, welts, broken bones, and broken lives. When a person is hit in anyway by another human being, it is demeaning. When people are hit, they also receive a message of worthlessness. The victim may think, “I’m no good; therefore, I deserve to be hit.” Violence is a
learned behavior that has its roots in early childhood experiences. This type of abuse starts in the home and is passed on from generation to generation (Brinegar, Pg.13).
Child abuse dates back to twenty-one hundred B.C. Children in the Hammurabi and the Hebrew were considered property; abuse and infanticide were acceptable practices. In Roman times the father was permitted to sell, sacrifice, mutilate, or kill their children. Also there was the rule of thumb, stating that you could beat your wife or children as long as you beat them with a stick no thicker than the man’s thumb. Child abuse has a long history, but things have been changing. People are becoming informed about child abuse and soon hopefully the amount of cases being reported will decrease (Brinegar, Pg. 3).
The home is a very important place for children when they are growing up. They learn traits that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. The children learn to love, hate, get angry, fear, and forgive. The home needs to teach how to love and work with others, how to handle emotions, and how to forgive. With these lessons mastered, our children will be able to develop their full potential. Some children unfortunately learn how to fear and how to hate more than other children do. In homes where abuse occurs the children do not learn these traits, which can actually be harmful to our society. After the children felt they have had enough abuse some of them retaliate, they payback their abuse. Often the payback
is equal to the violence they experienced. It also shows up in other forms of antisocial behavior, such as stealing, vandalism, and robbery.
Individuals who use alcohol and drugs are more prone to violence than those who don’t. A parent can be like two different people, with and without the effects of alcohol and drugs. Sober, the parent is gentle and kind; intoxicated, he or she may become aggressively punitive and cruel. Substance abuse escalates a person’s loss of control and diminishes the ability to think rationally. Alcoholics frequently display charecteristics of irresponsibility and inability to tolerate frustration. They may deny responsibility for their actions and usually are married to a spouse who has sufficient personality disturbances that support – and even encourage – their mate’s drinking problem. Alcohol and other drug abuse precipitates violence in 50% or more of all child abuse (Brinegar, Pg. 6).
There are different types of sexual abuse; they range in seriousness, although all sexual abuse is a serious matter. Sexual interference is when anyone under the age of fourteen is touched in a sexual way or for a sexual purpose. Sexual exploitation is when a child trusts someone, such as a parent, teacher, coach, etc. This person uses them for sexual activity. Sexual activity includes touching a young person for a sexual purpose and inviting a young person to touch his or her own body or someone else’s body for a sexual purpose.
Sexual abuse usually occurs by someone the child knows and is close to. This person could be a mother or father, another family member, a baby-sitter or teacher. The abuser makes sure the child understands that what they are doing is a secret. They make the child think that if they tell anyone what they are doing that the child’s parents will get made at them and they will get in trouble. Children often will not say anything because they do not want their parents to get mad at them (Petras, Pg. 5).
Children that are sexually abused as children grow up with many side effects of the abuse. Many women that were molested as children become either totally frigid or unresponsive sexually. They can develop a number of psychosomatic symptoms, including migraine headaches, ulcers, colitis and painful menstrual problems. A common result of childhood molestation in the adult woman is that although she become able to have intercourse with an adult man, either in or out of marriage, she is unable t be sexually free. She feels generally uncomfortable during the entire sex act and may not be able to achieve orgasm. She might not even realize that this is a symptom of sexual abuse as a child. The women are usually surprised to discover that the origin of her problem connects with her early child hood experiences. This event in childhood that the
child totally represses that memory and often can not be uncovered with out professional help (Brinegar, Pg. 13).
Sexual abuse can start as early as six or seven years old, but similar situations arise with teenagers. Often the sexual misbehavior on the part of the parent doesn’t begin doesn’t begin until the child is reaching puberty, sometimes at eleven, twelve and thirteen. Sometimes at this age the child has the courage to tell someone about the abuse. When it is the father abusing the child and the mother is told often she laughs it off or tells the child the are too imaginative. The mother would do this for many reasons; she herself is being abused by her husband and feels she can not stop it or she is embarrassed by her husband’s actions and would rather not believe them (Kurland, Pg. 86).
Emotional and Psychological Abuse
Children are emotionally abused if they are made to feel unworthy and inadequate. This usually happens through verbally abusive treatment by their parents. Children may be constantly belittled, blamed, and criticized, both in private and in the presence of others. As a result, their self-esteem and self-confidence will be very low. Another form of emotional abuse is an absence or withdrawal of affection. Children who feel unloved and unlovable will have difficulty forming healthy relationships with others (Brinegar, Pg.15).
Psychological abuse is the after math of the abuse suffered as a child. Adults who were abused as children often suffer psychological abuse. As the child grows up they put the memory of their abuse into the back of their head and they try to forget about it. As an adult you might not remember that you were physically beaten, sexually assaulted or emotionally abused. The symptoms of psychological abuse appear when you are in a similar position, same as the one when you were abused. Symptoms of sexual abuse may arise when the adult is trying to have a sexual relationship. They might not be able to perform sexually; they may become frightened or scared. Some adults become abusive because abuse is what they learned from their parents. This is a symptom of physical abuse; they were abused as a child and know this is the only way they have learned to discipline their child. People who are quiet, have low self-confidence and low self-esteem are victims of emotional abuse. These symptoms usually stay with the person through out their life. They were made to feel worthless and that is hard to turn around. Psychological abuse is often discovered through therapy and usually this is also the only way to help cure it (Kurland, Pg.19)
As social attitudes change from one period to another, behavior that was acceptable or tolerated in the past becomes unacceptable and incurs social
disapproval. Sanctions or laws are passed regulating or prohibiting such behavior. Thus, what is seen as a social problem today might not have been recognized as such several generations ago. One such “modern” problem is child abuse. As the rights of children become recognized and extended from what they were in the past, the way children are treated comes under scrutiny and certain ways of treating them are declared illegal. Even when parents did not have powers of life and death over their children, there were no restrictions on the way they could treat their children. It was considered normal practice in historic times to beat children, servants, and women in order to chastise them. Corporal punishment was an accepted form of discipline, and was used in schools as well as by parents. It was quite common for children to be strapped by their teacher or by their parents, to be hit on the hand with a ruler, or even knocked about the head. Some people still used corporal punishment to a limited degree as a form of discipline, and consider it more effective in some situations than other forms of discipline. There is, however, a point at which corporal punishment crosses the line and constitutes abusive handling of a child.
Child abuse is defined as any way of treating a child that can result in physical or psychological damage to the child. When children are made to suffer emotional or physical pain, they are being abused. Physical violence, sexual molestation or exploitation, emotional deprivation, and neglect are all forms of child abuse (Jarman, Pg. 272)
Abused children may never be able to trust and love other people; without help, they may always have an attitude of inferiority and alienation. A child needs a sense of security to become a socially productive citizen. Children need to know that family rules are designed for order and functional living. Children need parents who are for them and with them in life. Abused children miss out on nutrient and integrative power and often grow up to be dysfunctional, antisocial individuals, retaliating against anybody who gets in their way. The family is the place where one’s world is formed. Life does not have any higher priority than parenting and providing a safe, functional environment for our children. The best effort is given in teamwork between mother and father, although single-parenting efforts can be preferable to being raised by parents in a dysfunctional marriage. Whether from a single-parent home or one in which both parents are present, children need guidance and security from both genders (Brinegar, Pg. 7). As once said, “What the mother sings to the cradle goes all the way down to the coffin” (Henry Ward Beecher).
Brinegar, Jerry. Breaking Free from Domestic Violence. Compcare Publishers: Minneapolis, 1992.
Jarman, Frederick E. The Living Family. John Wiley & Sons: Toronto, 1991.
Kurland, Morton L. Coping with Family Violence. The Rosen Publishing Group, Inc : New York, 1990.
Encarta Encyclopedia. Child Abuse. 1997.
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