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What you need to know about Child Abuse and Neglect

By James

Child abuse is getting very common with time. In order to protect your child from being a victim of child abuse, it is vital to know the hazards and signs of abuse. Becoming overprotective is a mistake that most parents make to protect their children from abuse. Every year, the number of child abuse cases reported is about three million, which involve approximately 5.5 million children. Cases of child neglect are also increasing every day and include both physical and sexual abuse.

The perpetrator in most child abuse cases is usually a family member. Factors that may lead to child abuse include depression among parents, issues related to mental health, a history of childhood abuse and domestic violence among parents. Cases of child neglect have also been seen among families who have financial issues and where parents are either teenagers or are alcohol or drug abusers.

What is Sexual Abuse?

Any sexual activity in which a child is involved without consent and is incomprehensible for him or her is referred to as sexual abuse. Fondling, intercourse, whether genital or anal, oral-genital interaction, exhibitionism, voyeurism as well as exposing the child to inappropriate sexual content, are all acts of sexual abuse. According to certain studies, every one in every four girls and one in every eight boys will get sexually abused before they reach the age of eighteen years.

Physical abuse involves harming a child's body by hitting, kicking, burning or using any other force. According to some studies, approximately one in every twenty children is abused physically.

What is Child Neglect?

Child neglect may include physical, emotional or medical neglect. Physical neglect is characterized by failure to provide basic necessities like food, clothing and shelter. Emotional neglect involves absence of love, affection and comfort, whereas medical neglect involves lack of medical care if the child is suffering from a sickness. All of the mentioned types of abuse can cause psychological and emotional abuse but verbal abuse can also be associated with these because it may damage a child's self-worth as well as emotional wellbeing.

What are the signs and symptoms of abuse?

Recognizing abuse is a bit difficult unless you're aware of the signs and symptoms of abuse. Abused children usually don't tell anyone about the mistreatment because they fear that they will be blamed for this or people won't believe them. They also feel very embarrassed about it. The reason for remaining quiet may also include the love or fear of the abuser. Ignoring signs and symptoms of abuse is a major mistake that is done on the part of the parents just because they don't want to face the truth. An abused child requires care and treatment as soon as possible. Children who are left to handle the situation on their own are very less likely to be treated.

Parents should always keep an eye on their child's unexplained behavior or unusual body changes. Some of the obvious signs and symptoms of abuse are mentioned as under:

Physical signs may include:

•             Unexplainable injuries like burns, bruises, abdominal or head injury

•             Bleeding and pain of genitals or any sexually transmitted diseases

•             Changes in their behaviors that indicate abuse

•             Increase in nightmares, depression and strange fears

•             Bedwetting and abdominal pain

•             Frequent attempts of running away

•             Exhibiting sexual behavior that is uncharacteristic of the child's age

•             Decrease in self-confidence

•             Unexplainable headaches and stomachaches

•             School failure

•             Behavior changes to either extremely passive or aggressive

•             Incapability to gain weight or unexpected weight gain

•             Socially withdrawn behavior or desperately affection demanding behavior

•             Increased appetite that leads to stealing food

There are long-term consequences of sexual abuse as well. Abused children suffer from emotional damage more than physical damage. Emotional damage decreases the child's capacity to cope with stress and learn lessons that help with their future life. A mistreated child grows up into an individual who is depressed, suffers from frequent suicidal ideation and has a withdrawn and violent behavior. Those who have been abused in their childhood are more likely to suffer from drug and alcohol abuse, reject laws and abuse others later in their lives. Victims of child abuse suffer from marital as well as sexual difficulties, suicidal behavior and depression. Getting to know a child victim is the first step towards recovery. The significance of early trauma to future development should be acknowledged because this is crucial to helping the victim.

The severity of reactions of an abused victim depends upon a number of factors like the time period of abuse, the child's relationship to the abuser and the age of the child at the time of abuse. To increase resiliency within the child after an incident of abuse, a close relationship of the child with a supportive adult should be formed.

How to help an abused child?

In case your child shows symptoms of abuse, you should get immediate help from a pediatrician or a child protective agency. Physicians have a legal obligation of reporting any case suspected of child abuse or neglect to the authorities. The abused child should be taken to a pediatrician who is expert in detecting cases of child abuse and providing the required treatment to any injuries and ailments. The child should be further recommended to a therapist to provide mental consolation. Investigators should be given all the necessary information to thoroughly investigate the case and bring the abuser to justice.

In order to prove child abuse in court, the doctor of the child can also be brought to testify in favor of the child. If the case of abuse involves physical abuse, criminal prosecution is rarely sought for but in cases of sexual abuse, a criminal prosecution is always sought for.

In case of abuse, a mental health professional can be asked for help that will benefit the child a lot. Mental health professionals can also provide counseling to the family that will make them capable of providing support and comfort required for the treatment of the child. Even the abuser can be provided the needed counseling by a mental health professional. Sometimes, a parent of the abused child can only help him or her. Most of the times, parents deny the fact that their child has been abused which deteriorates the child's emotional and mental wellbeing. Ignoring the abuse will only make the situation of your child worse and will minimize the child's chances to recover fully.

At all costs, the top priority of parents should be the safety of their child. The environment provided to the child should be safe and free of any abuse.

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