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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.

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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

Jolene's Story: How One Girls Bravery Put A Child Abuser Behind Bars

It is a powerful thing when children speak up against child abuse especially in cases where children being vocal leads to perpetrators being put behind bars. This is exactly what happened last year when Jolene De Jongh one of our 'Little Dreamers' reported a child abuser in her community.

According to Jolene one of her closest friends confided in her that she had been raped by an older community member yet the girl begged Jolene to keep her secret in fear of what might happen to her should this man find out. He had threatened the little girl and she was terrified of him. 

Despite her friends request, Jolene knew that she needed to tell someone about what had happened. She told her mother and when she felt her mother was stalling with the information Jolene decided to tell her friends father.

The man was arrested and when he was, other children in the community started coming forth with their stories of how he had sexually abused them. So far more than six children came forth with their stories.

The man is in jail and the court case is still on going. We would like to take the time to thank Jolene on behalf of all the children who he had abused and those who he would have abused in this time that he has been incarcerated.

Jolene's bravery is testament to how powerful we can be when we speak up against child abuse.

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What You As A Parent or Caregiver Must Know About Child Abuse

Violence against children is a global epidemic and despite laws and structures that have been put in place to protect these young children, very little action is being taken against those who are in position and have the authority over children’s welfare.

One of the most alarming statics about child abuse is that more than half of the children who are abused experience it at the hands of a caregiver, a teacher or a relative. Children on a daily basis are at the mercy of those who they trust and often times love. Loving parents and caregivers who educate their children about the dangers 'out there' are often unaware and therefore do not teach children that those who are perpetrators of abuse are much closer to home.

Over the course of the next 45 days we will be exploring the topic of child abuse. Taking a deeper look into the statics and discussing ways in which we can be proactive in taking a stand against child abuse together

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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.

Child Abuse Infograph

Child abuse is one of the most prevalent forms of abuse. Thousands of cases of child abuse goes unreported on a daily basis. 

Last year one of the girls enrolled with the foundation spoke out against abuse and reported the man who had raped her 11 year old friend. This man was arrested and was found to have raped more than 11 other girls in the area.

By pledging your support to BD you can help us reach more children creating a stronger network of youth who stand up and speak up against children abuse. Working together we can make a difference.

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