Why Does Abuse Happen?

For many of us, when we read of horrific encounters of crimes committed against children, we cannot understand why anyone would want to hurt to child or begin to comprehend the circumstances that would lead to child abuse-of any kind.

Child abuse is a world-wide issue affecting children of all races, backgrounds, creeds and social status. The type of abuse suffered by children also stretches across the board.

Unfortunately there is no single factor that can be attributed to child abuse, but there the reasons behind abuse are wide-ranging and complex. In many families, there is a combination of factors that contribute to neglect and abuse, especially where parents/caregivers are under pressure or there is a lack of support.

In South Africa, we have a history of a country marred by violence- this over a long period of time and having severe psychological impacts which some of the results are being seen.

Some of the reasons proposed to try explaining why abuse happens are:

  • The violent background has created a society that accepts and condones acts of violence and force against women and children.

  • With this are a generation that believes that children should be seen not heard and therefore their cries for help and attempts at speaking out and reporting abuse fall on deaf ears.

  • The acceptance of physical punishment of children

  • Inequality between men and women

  • The belief that parents “own” their children and so have a right to treat them as they see fit

These are just some beliefs researchers have proposed. However, not all families who experienced the violent history abuse their children. Other factors also come into play such as:

  • Poverty

  • Biological predisposition (where help, therapy and support is not given, children who grow up abused and neglected may become psychologically and biologically predisposed to abuse their own children)

  • Lack of/poor education

  • Lack of support from family

  • Violence in the home between family members

  • Unemployment

Where sexual abuse takes place, some abusers, it is believed, may never abuse a child unless they have willingness and an opportunity to act on their desires. They often convince themselves that the abuse is not harmful; children are resilient and will get over it and in some extreme cases, that the victim wants the sexual contact. There is certain to be some mental deviation in their beliefs for what is normal, right and acceptable.

Despite this, many still believe that there still remains no excuse for abuse to happen and that those guilty of such crimes should be punished.

Abuse is not something we should simply settle for as the norm. It is also perhaps true that when you know better, you do better. And for those who have known no other way, it falls on us to educate, help carry the burdens and lend support to those in our families and communities.

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