CHILDREN AS VICTIMS OF ABUSE AND NEGLECT
Why and how does something as serious as this happen? Why is it allowed to happen and continue? Were the abusers victims themselves or?
This is a continual and serious problem not just in the United States but throughout the world, and unfortunately not just limited to one economic level, race or nationality. It affects all levels of society. It needs to be addressed and solutions found. Not just lip-service on the part of politicians, etc. I may not have children of my own, but I have a niece and nephew who know that no matter what I am always available to them no matter what. Also, I have seen far too many times in working with children in a local school system that are being abused or worse that many times the self-esteem, feelings of worthlessness and more are a prevailing issue with these young victims. And it takes many years of help to be rid of the negative feelings (if they ever leave, sometimes they suppress what has happened). Unfortunately studies have also shown that many of these so-called abusers/victimizers were also victims when they were younger and the pattern continues. At any rate I always take the time to listen and try to help in any way that I can and for a child that’s important, to have a trusted adult there for them and for that person to listen to them no matter what. I have also found that many of the existing laws relating to child abuse/neglect are quite vague and/or overly broad on this matter and there is a lack of consensus on what the terms abuse and neglect really means. And this issue is not just limited to one specific area of the United States; it’s equally as bad in New York City as it is in Oshkosh.
Child abuse is the physical, sexual or emotional maltreatment or neglect of a child or children. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department for Children and Families (DCF) define child maltreatment as any act or series of acts of commission or omission by a parent or other caregiver that results in harm, potential for harm, or threat of harm to a child. Child abuse can occur in a child’s home, or in organizations, schools or communities the child interacts with. There are four major categories of child abuse: neglect, physical abuse, psychological or emotional abuse and sexual abuse. In Western countries, preventing child abuse is considered a high priority, and detailed laws and policies exist to address this issue. Different jurisdictions have developed their own definitions of what constitutes child abuse for the purposes of removing a child from his/her family and/or prosecuting a criminal charge. According to the Journal of Child Abuse and Neglect, child abuse is “any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation, an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm”.
Until quite recently, children had very few rights in regard to protection from violence by their parents, and still continue to do so in many parts of the world. Historically, fathers had virtually unlimited rights in regard to their children and how they chose to discipline them. In many cultures, such as Ancient Rome, a father could legally kill his children; many cultures have also allowed fathers to sell their children into slavery. Child sacrifice was also a common practice.] Today, corporal punishment of children by their parents remains legal in most countries, but in Western countries that still allow the practice there are strict limits on what is permitted. The first country to outlaw parental corporal punishment was Sweden (parents’ right to spank their own children was first removed in 1966, and it was explicitly prohibited by law from July 1979. In public schools today, staff members can’t even touch a child, lest they be charged with harming the child in some way. Child abuse can take several forms. The four main types are physical, sexual, psychological, and neglect. A federal report claims that “neglect was the most common form of maltreatment” claiming that the majority of cases in which the primary problem is family poverty.”
Physical abuse involves physical aggression directed at a child by an adult. Most nations with child-abuse laws consider the deliberate infliction of serious injuries, or actions that place the child at obvious risk of serious injury or death, to be illegal. Bruises, scratches, burns, broken bones, lacerations, as well as repeated “mishaps,” and rough treatment that could cause physical injury, can be physical abuse. Multiple injuries or fractures at different stages of healing can raise suspicion of abuse. Physical abuse can come in many forms, although the distinction between child discipline and abuse is often poorly defined. However, the United Nations Human Rights Committee stated that the prohibition of degrading treatment or punishment extends to corporal punishment of children. Cultural norms about what constitutes abuse vary widely: among professionals as well as the wider public, people do not agree on what behaviors constitute abuse. Some professionals claim that cultural norms that sanction physical punishment are one of the causes of child abuse, and have undertaken campaigns to redefine such norms. There are those that take the view that humiliations, spankings and beatings, slaps in the face, etc. are all forms of abuse, because they injure the integrity and dignity of a child, even if their consequences are not visible right away.
Child sexual abuse (CSA) is a form of child abuse in which an adult or older adolescent abuses a child for sexual stimulation. Sexual abuse refers to the participation of a child in a sexual act aimed toward the physical gratification or the financial profit of the person committing the act. Forms of CSA include asking or pressuring a child to engage in sexual activities (regardless of the outcome), indecent exposure of the genitals to a child, displaying pornography to a child, actual sexual contact with a child, physical contact with the child’s genitals, viewing of the child’s genitalia without physical contact, or using a child to produce child pornography. Selling the sexual services of children may be viewed and treated as child abuse with services offered to the child rather than simple incarceration. Effects of child sexual abuse include guilt and self-blame, flashbacks, nightmares, insomnia, fear of things associated with the abuse (including objects, smells, places, doctor’s visits, etc.), self-esteem issues, sexual dysfunction, chronic pain, addiction, self-injury, self-injury, suicidal intentions, somatic complaints, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, mental illnesses including borderline personality disorder as well as dissociative identity, bulimia nervosa, and physical injury to the child, among other problems. Most sexual abuse offenders are acquainted with their victims; approximately 30% are relatives of the child, most often brothers, fathers, mothers, uncles or cousins; around 60% are other acquaintances such as friends of the family, babysitters, or neighbours; strangers are the offenders in approximately 10% of child sexual abuse cases. In over one-third of cases, the perpetrator is also a minor.
Emotional abuse is defined as the production of psychological and social deficits in the growth of a child as a result of behavior such as loud yelling, coarse and rude attitude, inattention, harsh criticism, and denigration of the child’s personality. Other examples include name-calling, ridicule, degradation, destruction of personal belongings, torture or killing of a pet, excessive criticism, inappropriate or excessive demands, withholding communication, and routine labeling or humiliation. Victims of emotional abuse may react by distancing themselves from the abuser, internalizing the abusive words, or fighting back by insulting the abuser. Emotional abuse can result in abnormal or disrupted attachment development, a tendency for victims to blame themselves for the abuse, and overly passive behavior.
Child neglect is the failure of a parent or other person with responsibility for the child to provide needed food, clothing, shelter, medical care, or supervision to the degree that the child’s health, safety, and well-being are threatened with harm. Neglect is also a lack of attention from the people surrounding a child, and the non-provision of the relevant and adequate necessities for the child’s survival, which would be lacking in attention, love, and nurture. Some of the observable signs in a neglected child include: the child is frequently absent from school, begs or steals food or money, lacks needed medical and dental care, is consistently dirty, or lacks sufficient clothing for the weather. Neglected children may experience delays in physical and psychosocial development, possibly resulting in psychopathology and impaired neuropsychological functions including executive function, attention, processing speed, language, memory and social skills. Children are not likely to view caregivers as being a source of safety, and instead typically show an increase in aggressive and hyperactive behaviors which may disrupt healthy or secure attachment with their adopted parents. These children have apparently learned to adapt to an abusive and inconsistent caregiver by becoming cautiously self-reliant, and are often described as glib, manipulative and disingenuous in their interactions with others as they move through childhood. Children who are victims of neglect have a more difficult time forming and maintaining relationships, such as romantic or friendship, later in life due to the lack of attachment they had in their earlier stages of life.
Child labour refers to the employment of children in any work that deprives children of their childhood, interferes with their ability to attend regular school, or is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful. This practice is considered a form of exploitation and abuse of children by many international organizations. Child labor refers to those occupations which infringe the development of children (due to the nature of the job and/or the lack of appropriate regulation) and does not include age appropriate and properly supervised jobs in which minors may participate. According to ILO, globally, around 215 million children work, many full-time. Many of these children do not go to school, do not receive proper nutrition or care, and have little or no time to play. More than half of them are exposed to the worst forms of child labour, such as child prostitution, drug trafficking and worse.
Child trafficking is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of children for the purpose of exploitation. Children are trafficked for purposes such as of commercial sexual exploitation, bonded labour, camel jockeying, child domestic labour, drug couriering, child soldiering, illegal adoptions, begging. It is difficult to obtain reliable estimates concerning the number of children trafficked each year, primarily due to the covert and criminal nature of the practice.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is defined by the World Health Organization as “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” It is practiced mainly in 28 countries in western, eastern, and north-eastern Africa, particularly Egypt and Ethiopia, and in parts of Asia and the Middle East. FGM is most often carried out on young girls aged between infancy and 15 years. The consequences of FGM include physical, emotional and sexual problems, and include serious risks during childbirth. In Western countries this practice is illegal and considered a form of child abuse
A child marriage is a marriage whereby minors are given in matrimony – often before puberty. Child marriages are common in many parts of the world, especially in parts of Asia and Africa. These marriages are typically arranged and often forced; as young children are generally not capable of giving valid consent to enter into marriage, child marriages are often considered by default to be forced marriages. Marriages under the age of majority have a great potential to constitute a form of child abuse. In many countries there are no adequate laws to criminalize these practices, and even where there are laws, they are often unenforced.
In the USA, neglect is defined as the failure to meet the basic needs of children including housing, clothing, food and access to medical care. Neglect could also take the form of financial abuse by not buying the child adequate materials for survival. A child abuse fatality occurs when a child’s death is the result of abuse or neglect, or when abuse and/or neglect are contributing factors to a child’s death. Family situations which place children at risk include moving, unemployment, and having non-family members living in the household. A number of policies and programs have been put in place in the U.S. to try to better understand and to prevent child abuse fatalities, including safe haven laws, child fatality review teams, training for investigators, shaken baby syndrome prevention programs, and child abuse death laws which mandate harsher sentencing for taking the life of a child. Child abuse is a complex phenomenon with multiple causes. Understanding the causes of abuse is crucial to addressing the problem of child abuse. Parents who physically abuse their spouses are more likely than others to physically abuse their children. However, it is impossible to know whether marital strife is a cause of child abuse, or if both the marital strife and the abuse are caused by tendencies in the abuser. This commonly used term refers to the process of parents’ setting expectations for their child that are clearly beyond the child’s capability. When parents’ expectations are particularly deviant (e.g., preschool children who are expected to be totally responsible for self-care or provision of nurturance to parents) the resulting frustration caused by the child’s non-compliance is believed to function as a contributory if not necessary cause of child abuse.
Children resulting from unplanned pregnancies are more likely to be abused or neglected. Neglect is by far the most common form of child abuse, accounting for more than 78% of all cases.] In addition, unintended pregnancies are more likely than intended pregnancies to be associated with abusive relationships, and there is an increased risk of physical violence during pregnancy. They also result in poorer maternal mental health, and lower mother-child relationship quality.
Substance abuse can be a major contributing factor to child abuse. One U.S. study found that parents with documented substance abuse, most commonly alcohol, cocaine, and heroin, were much more likely to mistreat their children, and were also much more likely to reject court-ordered services and treatments. It is been shown that over two-thirds of cases of child maltreatment involved parents with substance abuse problems and specifically found relationships between alcohol and physical abuse, and between cocaine and sexual abuse. Although the abuse survivor does not always realize the abuse is wrong, the internal confusion can lead to chaos. Inner anger turns to outer frustration. Once aged, drink and drugs are used to numb the hurt feelings, nightmares and daytime flashbacks. Unemployment and financial difficulties are associated with increased rates of child abuse. Having been abused as a child seems to lead to a repetition with one’s own children. Beyond that, the causes of child abuse seem to be deep-rooted anger and frustration and an intolerable sense of physical or emotional inadequacy. Anger most of all, the victims are unsure of how to control the anger. Child abuse is an international phenomenon. Poverty and substance abuse are widespread international issues, and no matter the location, show a similar trend in the correlation to child abuse.
Although these issues can likely contribute to child maltreatment, differences in cultural perspectives play a significant role in the treatment of children. In certain nations, the battle for equality within the sexes plays a large part in a child’s upbringing. Studies show that 90 percent of maltreating adults were maltreated as children in their life. When children were two, studies show that 16 percent of 267 high-risk mothers mistreated their own children, to different effects. The first two years of a child’s life is when parents invest the least in their children. Almost 7 million American infants go to child care services, like day care, and a majority of that care is poor. Serious consequences occur when young children are maltreated, including developmental issues, 16 percent of those 267 high risk mothers mistreat their two year old children in different ways. 55 percent of the children experienced physical abuse, 55 percent experienced neglect, 43 percent experienced hostile and rejecting parenting, and 43 percent experienced unavailable parenting.
Victims of childhood abuse, it is claimed, also suffer from different types of physical health problems later in life. Some reportedly suffer from some type of chronic head, abdominal, pelvic, or muscular pain with no identifiable reason. Even though the majority of childhood abuse victims know or believe that their abuse is, or can be, the cause of different health problems in their adult life, for the great majority their abuse was not directly associated with those problems, indicating that sufferers were most likely diagnosed with other possible causes for their health problems, instead of their childhood abuse. Children who are physically abused are likely to receive bone fractures, particularly rib fractures, and may have a higher risk of developing cancer. Children who experience child abuse & neglect are 59% more likely to be arrested as juveniles, 28% more likely to be arrested as adults, and 30% more likely to commit violent crime. The immediate physical effects of abuse or neglect can be relatively minor (bruises or cuts) or severe (broken bones, hemorrhage, or even death). In some cases the physical effects are temporary; however, the pain and suffering they cause a child should not be discounted. Meanwhile, the long-term impact of child abuse and neglect on physical health is just beginning to be explored. Shaken baby syndrome is a common form of child abuse more prevalent than people realize and results in permanent neurologic damage or death. Damage results from bleeding in the brain, as well as damage to the spinal cord, neck as well as rib or bone fractures. Impaired brain development in some cases these alterations in brain maturation have long-term consequences for cognitive, language and academic abilities. Poor physical health. It has been shown that a relationship between various forms of household dysfunction (including childhood abuse) and poor health. Adults who experienced abuse or neglect during childhood are more likely to suffer from physical ailments such as allergies, arthritis, asthma, bronchitis, high blood pressure, and ulcers. On the other hand, there are some children who are raised in child abuse, but who manage to do unexpectedly well later in life regarding the preconditions. Such children have been termed dandelion children, as inspired from the way that dandelions seem to prosper irrespective of soil, sun, drought, or rain. A support-group structure is needed to reinforce parenting skills and closely monitor the child’s well-being. Children’s school programs regarding “good touch…bad touch” can provide children with a forum in which to role-play and learn to avoid potentially harmful scenarios. Pediatricians can also help identify children at risk of maltreatment and intervene with the aid of a social worker or provide access to treatment that addresses potential risk factors such as maternal depression. Unintended conception increases the risk of subsequent child abuse, and large family size increases the risk of child neglect.
April has been designated Child Abuse Prevention Month in the United States since 1983. One way the United States Government provides funding for child-abuse prevention is through Community-Based Grants for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (CBCAP). Each year during Child Abuse Prevention Month, “often media and commentators take the number of reports to be synonymous with the number of cases of actual child maltreatment; this is obviously not the case”. “Some argue that even many “substantiated reports involve only minor or insignificant matters, which most reasonable people would not truly consider abuse or neglect.” The 3.3 million annual (hotline) referrals effects on average 1 out of 10 U.S. families with children (There are 32,200,000 U.S. families with children under 18 according to the 2010 U.S. Census) Unsubstantiated rates of the current magnitude go beyond anything reasonably needed; a high rate of unsubstantiated reports should concern everyone”, But it seems that each report results in what can be an intrusive and traumatic investigation that is inherently a breach of parental and family privacy. The emotionally charged desire to “do something” about child abuse, fanned by repeated and often sensational media coverage has led to an understandable, but counterproductive over reaction on the part of the professionals and citizens who report child abuse.