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The Crippling Effects of Child Abuse

Every child has a right to a safe and violent-free environment. From a young age many children are exposed to and are victims of heinous crimes and abuse. This is a direct and criminal infringement of those rights. During the 2013/2014 period 45 230 contact crimes committed against children were reported to the SAPS.

A child’s brain during their early years is crucial to their development. Children have many needs during these years and the love, support, care and experiences they have aids in the healthy development and functioning of the brain. Those who grow up in a healthy environment will likewise have a healthy development that is stable and secure. Children, who experience stress and trauma such as abuse, will suffer stress to their brain during this period of development.

As every child is different and the abuse suffered ranges between the victims, the effects of abuse will manifest differently in each child. The severity and frequency of the abuse plays a role in the child’s response to it and the healing process thereafter.

In many cases, the abuse is at the hands of someone they can trust. This causes a breakdown of trust in that relationship and with other adults. The emotional problems that result from this are a severe lack of self-esteem in the child. They may also suffer a range of problems like depression, anxiety and withdrawing from activities amongst other effects.

The impact of the emotional, physical and sexual abuse can have devastating long terms effects on the child if the right help and support is not offered to the victim. These effects can range from psychological, emotional and physical problems.

It is believed that children who have been victims of child abuse are also more like rather other children to engage in destructive behaviour such as being aggressive, substance abuse and become offenders of crimes themselves. In the long term, many of those who suffered abuse children are more likely to become abusive to their own children or be in abusive relationships.

Forming healthy and satisfactory relationships with other adults becomes a challenge. They often find ways to suppress the trauma and cope with it. Eating disorders, risky behaviour, self-harming and poor decision-making in certain areas are all effects that children can suffer as and when they grow older.

From a physical perspective, abuse can result in long-lasting physical damage, such as in cases where neglect is involved. In some cases evidence in terms of bruising and scarring is visible; however there are those perpetrators who can inflict abuse without leaving a mark. In these cases it is often difficult to recognise that the abuse is going on which can stretch out the length of the abuse.

The good news is that it is not all doom and gloom. Children are strong and resilient. While the effects of abuse can have far-reaching consequences and effects, there are many children who can grow up and live healthy, productive lives. Where treatment, support, counselling, interventions and therapy are available to the children, they are able to work through the trauma and begin a recovery process that will aid in their physical and emotional healing and future well-being.

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