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CHILD ABUSE AND THE ROLE OF TEACHERS

Written by Eleena Mendis

As soon as you read the topic, I know you think to yourself “Is it another article of child abuse?” Are you fed up of reading enough depressing stories? Have you ever thought of rethinking the idea of child abuse and your own role-play in it? Now it is time to realize. 

In consideration of child care, Child Abuse has been a much-needed topic. Also, understanding the proper idea of child abuse is very important. Every single day, many children suffer due to the lack of knowledge about child abuse of parents, caregivers, teachers, or adults. Society thinks child abuse is sexual abuse or brutal physical violence, but it can be any sort of maltreatment towards children. 

World Health Organization: Nearly 3 in 4 children—or 300 million children—aged 2–4 years regularly suffer physical punishment and or psychological violence at the hands of parents and caregivers.

Child abuse is a vast area that can discuss with five main categories.

  • Physical abuse 

Physical abuse is any form of physical violence towards children. Unlike the sexual abuse, the reaction towards physical abuse is less because some areas of the world or some cultures have normalized physical punishments as a way of adapting children. When a child makes a mistake purposely or not, the parents or the adults or even teachers tend to punish them physically. For example, hitting is a regular physical punishment, especially in countries like Sri Lanka. That can physically hurt or harm as well as this can affect a child emotionally.

  • Physical neglect 

Physical neglect is when children are not receiving basic necessities such as care and healthy nutrition. Many children suffer without enough attention to their physical needs. As parents or caregivers, we need to provide them with a sufficient meal-plan as they need it to grow up healthily. At the same time, we need to uplift the standard of living for them to grow up in a safe environment. Physical neglect has rarely noticed as child abuse in our society. For example, child laborers and children dropped out of school are considered as physically neglected. It is crucial to create more awareness of these types of child abuse and to bring up conversations and solutions to ensure the physical needs of children.

  • Emotional or psychological abuse 

This term is a very harmful category of abuse that can leave scars behind throughout the lifetime of a child. When adults act in a dismissive and hostile manner towards children, that defined as abusing emotionally / psychologically. This sort of abusive behavior is a severe problem that has to investigate with proper attention. It is always not easy for children to reveal what is emotional abuse, or in most of the cases, they do not have the knowledge to realize that how they got abused emotionally. Berating or intentionally scaring children can also lead to emotional or psychological abuse.

  • Emotional or psychological neglect 

Positive attention, love, and caring is a must in parenting. Lack of positive attention, love, and security for children is emotional or psychological neglect. For example, violence between parents or caregivers affects children immensely. Ignorance of children affects their mental health and happiness.

  • Sexual abuse 

Forceful intercourse with children or even with the consent of a child declared as an abusive sexual act under child abuse. It can be a traumatic experience that will affect a child’s mental state permanently. Physical pain, as well as physical illnesses, could occur due to sexual abuse. Also, children could be easily uncovered to sexual diseases and child pregnancies by child abuse.

As you see, “Negligence” is very easily missed out of the scope of child abuse, while it plays a huge role in it. Sexual abuse is not the only type of abuse that society needs to pay attention to in this condition. However, the above mentioning of types of abuse is harmful to society and children overall. We might be parents, teachers, caregivers to some children, or we may not, yet as adults, it is our responsibility to protect children from violence, abuse, and exploitation. Child marriage or cohabitation before the age of 18, child labor, female genital mutilation among the girls, and severe physical means of punishing children are some of the highlights that have taken the attention of the world. As in a personal view, I see a lot of cultural and religious backgrounds that discourage the ability to stand against the violence, abuse, or exploitation towards children.

World Health Organization: A child who is abused is more likely to abuse others as an adult so that violence is passed down from one generation to the next. It is therefore critical to break this cycle of violence, and in so doing, create positive multi-generational impacts.

The above statement clears the necessity of taking action to prevent child abuse because it works like a chain. It has practiced through abusersthemselves. Abusers, as well as victims, need special help to overcome mental instability. The number of cases reported in child sexual abuse is less than the actual number of cases taken place due to under-reporting and community codes of silence during the past decade. That is a major drawback in the struggle of child abuse that keeps encouraging abusers. We need to create more awareness as well as the self-confidence to raise in such situations. What is not recognized is the importance of reporting all kinds of abuse, and not only sexual abuse and above mentioned all five categories but everything else which relates to abusive measures. If we fail, then it can be seriously harmful to children equally.

Most of the parent’s and caregiver’s mind has settled to think about outsiders and strangers with regards of child abuse, and they try to keep their children away from the strangers while many of the cases occur within the family and close friends. At the same time, there are high possibilities of occurring child abuse from parents, caregivers, and teachers intentionally or unintentionally. That is a very tricky part of the struggle of overcoming child abuse since it is hardly noticed or reported while it seems to happen more often. From a teacher’s perspective, it is extremely important to have a good knowledge regarding child abuse to identify children undergone similar situations to help them immediately. First of all, they have to be very sensitive just like the children, because dealing with them is not as easy as you do with adults. Physical and emotional neglect and abuse can happen from many teachers than sexual abuse. Some of them tend to abuse children either way mentioned above because of personal grudges or dislikes towards the child or sometimes when the teacher is intolerant to take the right procedures with the child’s behavior or learning patterns. Teachers with a lack of patience can be harmful to children, and it is crucial to have the right knowledge, practice, and the mindset to become one.

Staying away from child abuse in any circumstances is defined as denying social responsibilities as a teacher. All the teachers have to be active members in identifying children undergone child abuse to help them overcome their situations. They must have the courage to stand up and speak up against it, even in situations that you come across seeing other teachers or parents being abusive. The teachers can observe children in order to figure out whether they are experiencing any kind of abuse,

  • Sleeping disorders 
  • Eating disorders 
  • Health situation (lack of nutrition)
  • Tidiness
  • Activeness
  • The way of responding to friends and teachers
  • Physical wounds
  • Scars or any other difficulty (ex. urinal infections or bleeding)

Then, they are able to talk with the child and the parents or caregivers to help the child or even to fetch them to any sort of mental or physical treatment for recovery. At the same time, it is your responsibility to take legal actions or encourage the parents, caregivers, or relevant parties to take action towards abusers. Even though this seems to be the last and the most difficult step of the process, it is the most crucial step to be taken towards the betterment of the world.  

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