When you hear of child abuse what’s the first thing that comes to mind ? A woman mistreating her niece and nephew? A man and his wife mistreating their child maid ? Children hawking ? Children being physically abused and branded witches ?
You’re right in your thoughts but child abuse isn’t limited to these.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) child abuse can be defined as all forms of physical and/or emotional ill treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation resulting in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power.
It is so unfortunate that as much as child abuse occurs in Nigeria it has been given little attention, I get that there are more pressing issues like malnutrition and infection but it does not make child abuse any less critical because a child can be abused in so many different ways.
There’s Emotional or psychological abuse : I believe this is the most common form of abuse, it includes not showing love and affection, rejection, humiliation, insults, setting unreasonable expectations, restricting opportunities for the child to learn or socialize. I also believe you need to see your child as a separate person, your parenting style doesn’t need to be aggressive, it doesn’t need shouting and intimidation. There are subtle methods of relating with your children that will not leave them with negative psychological effects. I say be approachable, earn their trust, become their confidant, and they won’t end up sad, depressed and experiencing mental health problems or difficulties in personal relationships.
NEGLECT : This happens sometimes without parents or care givers realizing it, if you fail to provide food, shelter, medical care and education, you have neglected your child and in my opinion failed as a parent/guardian. I know that there are situations where a parent might not be physically, mentally or financially able to meet a child’s needs but that’s not to say that the child isn’t suffering from the parent’s incompetence. Now don’t get me wrong, neglect can occur both in rich and poor families, if you don’t give your child ample time and attention you’re neglecting that child. Personally I think the most important thing parents can do for their child is have adequate time and provide them with basic necessities for survival, don’t leave your child for long hours without a sitter, make sure you provide your child with an education, always be there to love, support and encourage your child, make sure your child doesn’t lack medical care.
Physical abuse : Okay this we can relate to because it has been a normal aspect of domestic life here in Nigeria for a very long time.
Punching, kicking, strangling, shaking, biting, burning or throwing a child is considered child abuse, even excessive or inappropriate discipline or violence I consider child abuse, now don’t misunderstand, discipline your child if you must but when it starts to leave bruises, burns, welts, bite marks and in extreme form death then eyebrows need to be raised. I unequivocally trust that if parents stop having unrealistic expectations of their child, if they understand the child’s needs and how to interact with them it would result in a happy home.
Physically abused children naturally think it’s okay to abuse other children, they don’t relate to both their peers and adults around them, they are distrustful and perpetually vigilant and they are most likely to have problems with their academics, physical development and self esteem.
Sexual abuse : This is another really common form of abuse not just in Nigeria but globally, it is when an adult or older adolescent uses a child for sexual purposes which include touching for sexual purposes, sexual intercourse, an adult exposing themselves to the child or seeking to have the child touch them, it also includes voyeurism, photographing children inappropriately, involving the child in pornographic activities etc. A person may sexually abuse a child using threats and physical force but sexual abuse often involves subtle forms of manipulation in which the child is coerced to believing that the activity is an expression of love.
This just sickens me, it is disheartening to know that there are people who engage in this appalling behaviour. Parents this is one of the major reasons you need your child to trust you; so they feel free to tell you anything and so they take your words of advice, make it your duty to know everything and everyone your child is involved with, at school, in your neighbourhood, church, dance class and everywhere else. Tackle anything that seems suspicious so it doesn’t evolve into a long term issue.
MYTHS ABOUT CHILD ABUSE
Lack of knowledge about child abuse has led to a number of misconceptions.
Myth 1 : Child abuse is rare.
Okay if you took time to read the types of child abuse listed above you’d know why this is untrue, child abuse may go undetected due to the private nature of the crime but it is definitely not rare.
Myth 2 : It is only abuse if it is violent.
If you decide to use your child as an object or exploit your power over the child it is abuse, you don’t have to hit your child before abuse is recognized.
Myth 3 : Children usually lie about child abuse for attention and sympathy.
Research has shown that it is very rare for a person of any age to state that they were abused when they weren’t in fact the reverse is usually the case.
Myth 4 : Children usually tell someone about their abuse.
Research has also shown that most children do not tell anyone, they’re often silenced through threats or fear of not being believed. Some children are in a state of confusion as to what’s happening to them and can’t find the words to explain.
Myth 5 : Children get over ‘bad experiences in childhood’
Children who actually survive child abuse need the right care and support to overcome the impacts of child abuse else they grow into deeply traumatized and depressed adults.
Myth 6 : Physical punishment helps parents control their child’s behaviour.
This one will bring fight now, lol. In my opinion physical punishment makes children submissive, fearful and/or aggressive, it teaches them that hitting is a way to solve problems with other people. I know that as a good parent you do not mean to hurt your child, you discipline them out of love and so they behave well but be open to learning effective parenting strategies to reduce the risk of physical abuse in the future.
Myth 7 : Abused and neglected children almost always come from poor, minority and inner city families.
There is no evidence that links socioeconomic status, race or educational levels to abuse or neglect. Child abuse can occur in any neighbourhood, school and community.
Myth 8 : Children are usually abused by strangers.
Okay this is so untrue, most children who are sexually abused are abused by someone they know. Sexual violence by strangers is rare, 85% of sexual violence is committedby someone known to the victim.
Myth 9 : Sometimes children are to blame for their abuse.
Really ? They are children for crying out loud, a child is never to blame for abuse adults on the other hand are responsible for their own behaviour and no matter how a child behaves adults have no right to harm a child.
Myth 10 : Neglect is not as bad as other types of abuse.
On the contrary, it’s just as bad as physical or sexual abuse, it may even lead to the other types of abuse in a child’s life. Neglect often plays a role in other causes of death like suicide.
Street Child Care and Welfare Initiative
16 Akinwumi street, Alagomeji, Yaba
+234 806 027 5976
Domestic and Sexual Violence Response team
helpline for child abuse – 08085753932, 08102678443
Cece Yara Foundation
Child Right and Rehabilitation Network
Akwa Ibom state
+234 908 558 4091, +234 708 427 6982
My final thoughts on this issue guys; child abuse is at epidermic proportion in this country, according to UNICEF, six out of ten children in Nigeria experience emotional, physical or sexual abuse before the age of 18 and half experiencing physical violence. This is terrible guys, we need to start asking questions on how to eradicate child abuse in our society, these children are the future of this country, if we can’t keep them safe then there is definitely no hope for the country.
I think we need joint efforts on multiple levels to promote and sustain lasting behavioural change. Can we see child abuse for what it is ? A widespread and hurtful social practice that is reinforced everyday by long standing cultural beliefs and values. Why should offenses such as slapping or striking with an object be illegal if committed by one man against another but when committed by a man to his child it is deemed appropriate and necessary to keep the child in check, for me it is unacceptable.
Parents, guardians, care givers please don’t aid child labour a child should rightfully be in school not trading and hawking on the streets where they can be vulnerable to all kinds of harassment. Every child despite his individual differences and uniqueness is to be considered of equal worth and has a right to basic necessities. We don’t want our children having persistent nightmares, being suicidal, abusing drugs and alcohol leading to a host of intractable psychiatric disorders do we? Of course not so let’s give them a chance, If there’s no present there’s certainly no future.
Thank you guys so much for reading through to the end, it’s a very long post I know, no vex but there’s no such thing as too much knowledge. I hope you guys liked it, I’m still very open to feedback so please let me know your thoughts, questions or suggestions in the comments section below also don’t forget to share. It’s free! I’m counting on you guys o.
Thanks again and God bless. xx