Englischspezialgebiet - CHILD ABUSE


An overview of one of the most cruel crimes happening at the moment and affecting the most defenceless ones of our society.

by Iris Weihrauch


Child Abuse Generally

Sexual Abuse

Physical Abuse

Emotional Abuse

Who Are The Abusers?

The Prevalence Of Sexual Abuse

How To Recognise A child

who is sexually abused?

who is physically abused?

who is emotionally abused?

5. What Can I Do if I Know That a Child is Abused?

6. How To Safe Children

1. Child Abuse Generally

Child Abuse is a widespread though underreported phenomena and  still a present issue. Every 4th girl is sexually or physically abused and so is one in six boys. So nobody of us can deny the presence of abuse and it's important for everyone of us, to be confronted with this theme at least once to act the right way if someone of us suspects a child being abused.

But before presenting you the hard facts I'd like to tell you something about the different forms abuse can take.

1.1. The best known form is sexual abuse:

Child sexual abuse is any misuse of an infant or abuse of power and trust over it for sexual pleasure and gratification.

It starts with touching and exposing them to pornographic material and progresses to acts like forced masturbation and rape.

Sexual abuse is a crime which is usually committed in secret and may continue for many years. In addition to the pain those children go through they also feel guilty and ashamed, and often suffer in isolation.

It is also the type I want to focus on.

1.2. Another kind of child maltreatment is physical abuse

22% of all cases of child violation is physical abuse.

It is the most visible form of abuse and may be defined as any act which results in a non-accidental injury. It includes all forms of hitting, smacking, pushing, kicking, hair pulling or any other forms that harm and hurt a child.

This usually happens when a parent is angry or frustrated, even though this is definitely no excuse for those incidents. The longer physical abuse continues, the more serious are the injuries and the more difficult is it to stop it.

1.3. The third type is emotional abuse:

Defining emotional abuse is much more difficult, because there are neither real signs, nor any visible injuries. That's also one of the reasons why it is so hard to put a stop to it.  But commonly you can say it is the systematic tearing down of another human being.

It includes shutting children away and isolating them, constant criticism or ignorance, manipulation and the creation of guilt. It constantly attacks the child's psyche and self-concept, until it sees him or herself unworthy of love and affection. Even though it doesn't occur so often (only 4% of all abuses are emotional), it is the most destructive of all types of abuse, because it ruins a child's soul and is almost absolutely invisible. Those infants suffer at least as much as if they had been abused physically, they even may die as a matter of it.

2. Who Are The Abusers?

Child sexual abuse is a crime most commonly committed by men (95% of the abusers are male) against both girls and boys.

Children are most likely to be sexually abused by someone they know and trust or by someone in authority than by a stranger. 85% of those incidents are caused by family members, neighbours or friends, persons who are often not suspicious at all, because they just seem to "like" the child. They do not necessarily look dirty, weird or creepy or act suspiciously.

The sad thing is, that often the own father is responsible for the abuse, a person who should take care of his child.

A lot of abusers, who are no family-members are not easy to identify. They often have a position of status -they go to church, have a regular job and are active in community. They may seem perfectly respectable and nice and extremely clever at worming their way into your confidence so that you trust them alone with your children.

The maltreatment of children occurs within every neighbourhood, class and racial background, although it is now known that it doesn't occur equally over all groups.

3. The Prevalence Of Child Sexual Abuse

The most recent and comprehensive study of child sexual abuse in Britain undertaken by the University of North London showed that, including any unwanted sexual event that occurred before age 18, over 1 in 2 females and 1 in 4 males had experienced at least one such event.

The most common from of sexual abuse was "flashing" - which accounted for 27% of the experiences - the second most common was "touching" which 23% of the people had suffered. If certain "less serious" forms of abuse are excluded the prevalence figures are 1 in 4  for girls and 1 in 6 for boys. The forms of abuse which more commonly result in prosecution, and which the general public associate with sexual abuse (all forms of rape and forced masturbation) were experienced by 1 in 20 women and 1 in 50 men.

Definitions of what counts as sexual abuse have dramatic impacts on estimates of the prevalence of it.

4. How To Recognise A child

4.1 who is sexually abused:

Behavioural changes are often one of the most common signs. These changes may include any or all of the following indications:

Sudden fear or refusal to spend time with someone the child has loved before or with a relative. On the same note a seemingly unreasonable fear or refusal to go to certain places. Some children run away from home, while others turn to drugs or alcohol. But also eating disorders and problems in school can be traced back to sexual abuse.

Nearly all abused children have nightmares, specially with murderers, who don't die, no matter what they do to them.

Sexually transmitted diseases, repetitive yeast or urinary infections may also be a clue and are unmistakable signs for an abuse if the child is under 14.

Most four or five year old don't care who sees them naked but victims of sexual abuse may hide from even their mother. But also artwork can often show signs of abuse. Excessive use of black and red as well as pictures showing violence and death are standing for pain and fear.

4.2 who is physically abused:

Signs of physical abuse are more obvious than all others. As soon as a child has unexplained repetitive bruises or injuries, it's important to watch it and suspect physical abuse.

Also bite marks, burns and fractures in unusual places are indicators.

The behaviour of those children is quite similar to those having been sexually abused. But they are also aggressive and hurt others, which is often a way to express their feelings.

4.3 who is emotionally abused:

As I mentioned at the beginning, it is quite difficult to recognise an emotionally abused child. Behavioural indicators are for example negative statements about itself, because it has lost all its self-confidence. The child may also be shy, passive and may be highly aggressive and cruel to others. There are also often lags in physical, mental and emotional development.

If non-family members see a parent, who verbally terrorises his or her child, it's important to keep an eye on them, because it could mean that the child is emotionally abused.

5. What Can I Do if I Know That A Child Is Abused

Children often do not tell about their abuse, but if they do it's important to react the right way. The most important thing is to stay calm and to ensure that the child is safe and feels safe. You should show real concern, but not alarm or anger, when questioning the child about possible sexual abuse. It has to be able to trust you and believe that you're taking it's feelings and experiences seriously.

After the conversation you should take some notes to remember all details and contact proper authorities (the police, a doctor for medical care,..). Anyone who knows of the abuse of a child and does not report it is able to be arrested for neglect and is as guilty as the abuser himself.

6. How To Safe Children

No one is able to protect his or her child all the time and in every situation and to lock out any dangerous moments in its life, but we may reduce the danger by following these 2 advises:

Check all persons, who are left alone with the child or take care of it.

Talk with the kids about maltreatment and abusers and how it may recognise them and react, if it gets in contact with them (yell, run, tell). Also explain the difference between "safe" and "unsafe" secrets.

It has to feel confident about using safety strategies.

These are important facts, which make a child's life more safe and which may prevent any kind of abuse.    

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