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Child Abuse : Basic Facts | Consequences of Physical, Emotional and S-xual abuse.

BY: Dr Jyoti Gaur | Category: Social Issues | Post Date: 2009-10-28

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   Dr  Jyoti Gaur
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No one deserves to be harmed in any way, especially not a child. Children need adults to protect them and care for them until they are old enough to take care of themselves.But it is hard to believe that every minute of the day a child is abused.

The statistics on child abuse are alarming. Child abuse happens in all cultural, ethnic and income groups. It is estimated that hundred thousands of children are abused each year by a parent or close relative. Thousands actually die as a result of the abuse. For those who survive, the emotional trauma remains long after the external bruises have healed. Communities and the courts recognize that these emotional -hidden bruises- can be treated. Early recognition and treatment is important to minimize the long term effect of physical abuse. Whenever a child says he or she has been abused, it must be taken seriously and immediately evaluated.

Major Types of Child Abuse and Neglect
Each nation has its own definitions of child abuse and neglect. Generally all recognize four major types of maltreatment: neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse. Although any of the forms of child maltreatment may be found separately, they often occur in combination.

Neglect is failure to provide for a child's basic needs. Neglect may be:

• Physical ( failure to provide necessary food or shelter or lack of appropriate supervision).
• Medical (failure to provide necessary medical or mental health treatment).
• Educational (failure to educate a child or provide special education).
• Emotional (inattention to a child's emotional needs, failure to provide psychological care, or permitting the child to use alcohol or other drugs).

Physical Abuse is physical injury (ranging from minor bruises to severe fractures or death) as a result of punching, beating, kicking, biting, shaking, throwing, stabbing, choking, hitting (with a hand, stick, strap or other object), burning or otherwise harming a child. Such injury is considered abuse regardless of whether the caretaker intended to hurt the child or not.

Sexual Abuse includes activities by a parent or caretaker such as fondling a child's genitals, penetration, incest, rape, sodomy, indecent exposure, and exploitation through prostitution or exposure/ production of pornographic materials.

Emotional Abuse is a pattern of behavior of caretaker that impairs a child's emotional development or sense of self-worth. This may include constant criticism, threats or rejection, withholding love, support, or guidance. Emotional abuse is often difficult to prove. Emotional abuse is almost always present when other forms are identified.

Signs of Child Abuse
Child abuse can be hard to detect at times. Many children hide their abuse due to the fear that they will be harmed even more. They feel that no one will believe them if they say something. Or even worse - they'll be blamed themself. Abuse may cause serious injury to the child and may even result in death. Signs of possible abuse include:

Physical Abuse
• Change in style of child's clothing (wearing longer sleeves in summers).
• Unexplained or repeated injuries such as welts, bruises, or burns.
• Injuries that are in the shape of an object (belt buckle, electric cord, etc.)
• Injuries not likely to happen in the age of the child i.e. broken bones in a child too young to walk or climb.
• Unreasonable explanation / disagreement between the child's and the parent's explanation of the injury.
• Obvious neglect of the child (dirty, undernourished, inappropriate clothes for the weather, lack of medical or dental care).
• Fearful behavior.
• Changes in sleep patterns
• Abdominal pain/ sexually transmitted disease.

Emotional - Verbal Abuse

• Aggressive or withdrawn behavior.
• Changes in appetite- not eating, voracious appetite and stealing of food.
• Changes in moods (withdrawn or aggressive)
• Shying away from physical contact with parents or adults.
• Afraid to go home / attempts to run away .
• Sudden change in self-confidence.
• Headaches or stomachaches with no medical cause.
• Abnormal fears, increased nightmares.
• Failure to gain weight (especially in infants).
• Desperately affectionate behavior.

Sexual Abuse
Child has physical signs such as:

• Difficulty in walking or sitting.
• Stained or blood stained underwear.
• Genital or rectal pain, itching, swelling, redness, or discharge.
• Bruises or other injuries in the genital or rectal are

Child has behavioral and emotional signs such as:
• Difficulty eating or sleeping.
• Soiling or wetting pants or bed after being toilet trained.
• Acting like a much younger child.
• Excessive crying or sadness.
• Withdrawing from activities and others.
• Talking about sexual ill treatment / acting out sexual acts beyond normal for age.

Online Sexual Child Abuse
According to the recent researches a new form of child abuse is developing as well- Online sexual abuse which is a new development to this world of abuse.

Warning Signs of Online Sexual Child Abuse
• Child spends large amounts of time online, especially when alone.
• Pornography on child's computer.
• Child receives phone calls from unknown men or is making calls, sometimes long distance,
to numbers parents don't recognize.
• Child receives mail, gifts, or packages from someone unknown to parents.
• Child turns the computer monitor off or quickly changes the screen on the monitor when parents come into the room.
• Child becomes withdrawn from the family.

Most parents prefer to think that chronic child abuse is something that happens to other people's children. While it is evident that certain kinds of stress make abuse statistically more likely - poverty, job loss, marital problems, extremely young and poorly educated mothers -some people think that child abusers come from low income families and live in low income housing. They work minimum wage jobs and drink daily. This is just simply not true. Abuse doesn't stop when one has money. Abusers come from all economic backgrounds and abuse also occurs in seemingly good homes. It is worth noting that cultures in which corporal punishment is not sanctioned have much lower rates of child abuse.

Abuse can happen in any family, regardless of any special characteristics. However, families in which abuse may be more likely are:
• Families who are isolated and have no friends, relatives or other support systems.
• Parents who were abused as children.
• Families who are often in crisis / stress (have money problems, marital troubles, move often).
• Parents who abuse drugs or alcohol.
• Parents who are very critical of their child / are very rigid in disciplining their child.
• Parents who show too much or too little concern for their child.
• Parents who feel they have a difficult child.
• Parents who suffer from mental illness
• Parents who are frustrated with trying to provide for the child
• Parents who have anger management problems.

Long-Term Consequences of Child Abuse
The impact of child abuse and neglect is far greater than its immediate, visible effects. These experiences can shape child development and have consequences that last years, even lifetimes. Research now shows that the physical, psychological, and behavioral consequences of child abuse and neglect impact on not just the child and family, but the community as a whole.

Physical Consequences
The immediate physical effects of abuse can range from relatively minor, such as a bruise or cut, to severe, such as broken bones, internal bleeding, or even death. Longer-term consequences may include:
• Shaken Baby Syndrome (including blindness, mental retardation, cerebral palsy, or paralysis).
• Impaired brain development.
• Lifelong poor physical health.

Psychological Consequences
The immediate psychological effects of abuse and neglect—isolation, fear, and a lack of trust—can spiral into long-term mental health consequences including anxiety, depression, self esteem, eating disorders, suicidal attempts and difficulty establishing and maintaining relationships .

Behavioral Consequences
Studies have found abused or neglected children are to be at least 25 percent more likely to experience problems in adolescence, including: Juvenile delinquency, teenage pregnancy, drug abuse and low academic achievement . As adults, children who experienced abuse or neglect have an increased likelihood of criminal behavior, involvement in violent crime and abusive behavior.

As bad as the abuse can be, the child will typically suffer far more emotional trauma than anything. Children who are being abused can become very withdrawn or depressed. If they don't get the proper counseling and treatment services, they may become suicidal. Turn to drugs and alcohol as an outlet to escape, may run away from home and live life on the streets. Even worse, a child who was abused may grow up to be an abuser themselves.

Preventing Child Abuse
Here are some ways to contribute effort to prevention.
• Whether or not one is mandated by law to report child abuse and neglect and call the police or local child welfare agency. Doing so may save a child - and a family.
• Help educate others in your community about child abuse and neglect. One may also make material available at faith institutions. Even grocery stores usually have places to distribute community materials.
• Know the neighbors' names and the names of their children, and make sure they too know us. Give stressed parents a break by offering to watch their children.
• If one employs volunteers to care for the children, should check their background for a past history of child abuse or other criminal activity.
What to do when suspicious?

If one suspects child abuse of any kind, one should:
• Take the child to a quiet, private area.
• Gently encourage the child to give enough information to evaluate whether abuse may have occurred.
• Remain calm so as not to upset the child.
• If the child reveals the abuse, reassure him/her that you believe him/her, that he/she is right to tell you, and that he/she is not bad.
• Tell the child you are going to talk to persons who can help him/her.
• Return the child to the group (if appropriate).
• Record all information.
• Immediately report the suspected abuse to the proper local authorities. In most nations reporting suspected abuse is through law.

Dealing with child abuse is emotionally difficult. If one suspects a case of child abuse, may need to seek support from local health department, child welfare department or other source organization.


• Manju Gupta, 2001: A Social Work Perspective-Mangal Deep Publication, Jaipur.

• Dolly Singh, 2006: An Analysis of Contemporary Realities, Kanishka Publication, New Delhi.

• Laura.E.Berk, 1997: Child Development, 4th ed., Allyn and Bacon, London.

• Bryan. G. Grapes,2001: Child Abuse- Contemporary Issues, Green Haven Press.

• Briere, Berliner, Josephine, 2000: Handbook of Child Maltreatment, Newbury Park, CA:Sage Publication.

• Narayan Reddy, G., Narayan Reddy, S., 2003: Managing Childhood Problems-Support Strategies and Intervention, Kanishka Publication, New Delhi.

• Agakhan, S., Talal, H.B., 1986: Refugees: The Dynamics of Displacement, Zed Books Ltd., London.

• Read, K.H., 1995: Parents Expressed Attitudes and Childrens Behavior, Journal of Consultant Psychology, 95-100.

• Sidana, Usha and Sinha: Child rearing Practices and the Development of Fear in Children, Indian Journal of Psychology, Vol.,18(2) ,34-48.

• Winder, C.L.,Rau, L.: Parental Attitudes Associated with Social Deviance in Preadolescent Boys, Journal of Abnormal Social Psychology, Vol.64,1962.

• Mishra Pramod, 2000:Global Issues, Kalpaz Publication, New Delhi.

• Stephan, J., Bahr, 1989: Family Interaction, MC.Millan Publishing Company, Newyork.

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Comments on this article: (3 comments so far)

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Comment Comment By Comment Date
non custodial parent of an abused child
It answered every concern I can conceive. Thanks
mags 2010-02-13
You have just written the best article on child abuse. Excellent information in without unnecessary details.
Kevin 2009-10-28
Your child abuse article
Dear Doctor, We live in New Delhi and I hear so much about child abuse in India that I am too scared to raise my little daughter in this city. What has happened to our culture. It seem to e getting harder to not go around without being badly stared by these cheap mentality, sex starved youths. Even though your article does not describe any personal story, I had tears in my eyes reading all these facts. I think that your article is very helpful for people like me, especially the child abuse prevention tips. Thank you.
Shruti Sharma 2009-10-28

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