Child Abuse

Child Health

By Dr Shan Narayanan

There are many reports of Child Abuse every year. There is a need to put an end to this. In this process, increasing awareness is an important part.

What is Child Abuse?

Child abuse is when a parent or caregiver, whether through action or failing to act, causes injury, death, emotional harm or risk of serious harm to a child. There are many forms of child abuse, including neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation, and emotional abuse.

Physical abuse of a child is when a parent or caregiver causes any non-accidental physical injury to a child. This includes striking, kicking, burning, biting, hair pulling, choking, throwing, shoving, whipping or any other action that injures a child. Even if the caregiver didn’t mean to cause injury, when the child is injured it is abuse. Physical discipline from a parent that does not injure or impair a child is not considered abuse. However, this is not encouraged.

Physical abuse can result in:

  • Bruises, blisters, burns, cuts and scratches.
  • Internal injuries, brain bleed and damage.
  • Broken bones, sprains, dislocated joints.
  • Emotional and psychological harm.
  • Lifelong injury, death.

Emotional Abuse is when a parent or caregiver harms a child’s mental and social development, or causes severe emotional harm. While a single incident may be abuse, most often emotional abuse is a pattern of behaviour that causes damage over time.

Child neglect is when a parent or caregiver does not give the care, supervision, affection and support needed for a child’s health, safety and well-being. Child neglect includes:

  • physical neglect and inadequate supervision
  • emotional neglect
  • medical neglect
  • educational neglect.

Sexual abuse occurs when an adult uses a child for sexual purposes or involves a child in sexual acts. It also includes when a child who is older or more powerful uses another child for sexual gratification or excitement.

Sexual abuse of children includes:

  • Making a child view a sex act
  • Making a child view or show sex organs
  • Inappropriate sexual talk
  • Contact abuse
  • Fondling and oral sex
  • Penetration
  • Making children perform a sex act
  • Exploitation
  • Child prostitution and child pornography.

Child abuse and neglect can have lifelong implications for victims, affecting their well-being. While the physical wounds heal, there are several long-term consequences of experiencing the trauma of abuse or neglect. A child or youth’s ability to cope and even thrive after trauma is called ‘resilience’, and with help, many of these children can work through and overcome their past experiences.

Children who are maltreated often are at risk of experiencing cognitive delays and emotional difficulties, among other issues. Childhood trauma, at a very young age, also negatively affects nervous system development, putting children who have been maltreated at a higher risk for health problems as adults.

I will discuss other aspects of Child Abuse and its prevention in my further articles.

Shaken Baby Syndrome:

Injury to a baby caused by being shaken violently and repeatedly. Shaking can cause swelling of the brain, internal bleeding, detached retinas leading to blindness, mental retardation, and death.

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