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Physical Abuse Looks Something Like This

Child abuse is defined as “any form of harm or ill-treatment deliberately inflicted on a child”. In 84% of cases of abuse against children, the perpetrator is known to the child.

In 2014, a father admitted to killing his two-year old son, saying he threw him against the wall after he found the child in a soiled diaper.

Unfortunately this is just one example of the dangers our kids find themselves in. Every day, media reports are littered with unbelievable stories of heinous acts committed against our children. Abuse of South African children is occurring at an unnerving rate.

Three children are murdered every day in South Africa. This homicide rate is more than twice the global estimate. Child abuse is not a phenomenon isolated to South Africa, but violence perpetuated against our children around the world is a universal concern.

The South African Constitution defines a child as any person under the age of 18 years. It is estimated that there are just under 15 and a half million children under the age of 14 and 5 million between the ages of 15 and 19. In effect, this means 38% of South Africa’s population are legally defined as children. 2012-2013 statistics showed that 495 440 cases crimes were committed against children. These are those that were reported. Studies suggest that this number is at least nine times lower than the actual number.

How do you recognise the indicators of physical child abuse?

  • Injuries at different healing stages

  • Unexplained bone fractures, dislocations, bruising and injuries in unusual places like the skull, ribs

  • Bite marks, burns

  • Aggressive behaviour towards others, scared to go home

  • Torn, stained or bloody clothing/underwear

  • Malnutrition or eating disorders

  • Difficulty or pain when walking, sitting or urinating

What are the behavioural indicators of physical child abuse?

  • Avoiding physical contact with others

  • Dresses to hide injuries (for example: long sleeves in summer)

  • Bed wetting, sleep problems, nightmares

  • Inconsistent stories to explain their injuries

  • Aggressive towards others and does not get along with others

  • Self-harming

  • Drastic changes in behaviour and school work

  • Missing school, running away from home often or avoiding going home.

In rare occasions, there are other valid explanations for these signs and behaviours. However, these are can be used as indicators if you suspect child abuse is taking place.

Effects of physical child abuse

As a country, we come from a background etched in violence and unfortunately, in some case violence has become tolerated and people no longer speak up. There seems to be a growing culture and societal norms that deny the rights of children and are accepting of violence, not only against women but our children too.

The numbers and statistics are staggering and we should be rightly concerned about them. More so, the acts against these vulnerable and defenceless children should propel us to stand up and act against abuse.

Physical child abuse does not more than just physically hurt the child but there are emotional consequences that they suffer, some years after the fact. The severity and frequency of the abuse can result in more serious implications for the victim. The trauma suffered by the child can impact their lifelong into adulthood if not dealt with properly and as soon as possible.

Effects:

  • Emotional problems such as hostile behaviour, anxiety, fear, humiliation, low self-esteem

  • Inability to form friendships or showing poor social skills

  • Eating disorders

  • Inability to form trusting, open, healthy relationships

  • Substance abuse

  • Increased risk to become abusive as an adult

  • Risky and destructive sexual behaviour

  • Depression

While the individual and personal effects on one’s life is evident, there is also a deeper cost that we as a society carry. Some of these include crime and unemployment, mental disorders and government provisions that are given to adults who are unable to have a healthy contribution to society due to the abuse they suffered. One can never truly know the deeper, significant, life-changing impact abuse can have on a child. A healthy society is founded on emotionally healthy and stable individuals.

The sooner the abuse is recognised and interventions are placed, the long term effects of abuse can be dealt with recovery is possible.

physical abuse

We can all do something

One look at the overwhelming child abuse statistics can almost render us with feelings of hopelessness and despair. Many think that the abuse is too prevalent, the problem too wide-spread and the set societal norms and behaviours too ingrained for anyone to make any difference.

This is not true.

The truth is while we may not be able to do everything, but we can do something. Every little bit counts. The future belongs to our children and we have a responsibility to do something to help give them the best possible future.

So what can you do if you suspect a child is being abused?

  • The first port is to try and speak to the child and find out if your suspicions are valid.

  • At all times you must remain calm, rational and comforting

  • The key is not to react with anger and disgust. The child may already dealing with feelings of unworthiness, insecurity and distrust. A loving and supportive environment where the victim feels safe will encourage them to be honest about the abuse.

  • Report the case of child abuse to your local authorities.

SAPS Emergency number: 10111

Childline: 0800 05 55 55

Crime stop: 08600 10111

Anonymous tip-off: 32211

The key thing is to always be guided by the best interests of the child. Once reported and the child’s safety is secured, the healing and recovery process can start. When discovered early and the right support and interventions are in place, there is a good possibility for the child to grow up to be a healthy adult with good relationships and a healthy sense of self worth.

Author: Nelly Kgoadi

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