The words ‘abuse’ and “child abuse” tend to evoke very strong feelings and disturbing images in my head. I tend to shy away from such issues for various reasons, for one it is a very sensitive topic even though it is a widely debated one. People’s views regarding what is abuse and what is not differs greatly. Because there are so many forms of abuse, all equally important with a lot to be said about each and because I cannot cover all of them, the focus of this blog will be child abuse.
One would agree that child abuse is not as clear cut as it seems as people have different perceptions of child abuse. I grew up being spanked and my parents viewed it as disciplining me but some would view raising a hand at child for whatever reason as abuse. Some households set out chores for their children, on the other hand there is child labour which brings about the question, since the line seems so fine, how do you know when you have crossed it?
I think that there is a fine but clear line between punishment and abuse. In my opinion, that line is crossed when the punishment inflicts harm upon the punished individual. In my opinion, things like time-out, slight spanking and grounding the child are the best ways of dealing with a child who is acting out. Retaliating with fists, burning them with ciggeretes or throwing objects at them is what I consider as abuse.
World Health Organization defines abuse as the international use of force/power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or a group/community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, mal development or deprivation
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), child abuse includes all forms of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect and negligent treatment and exploitation. Child abuse therefore, is when harm or threat of harm is made to a child by someone acting in the role of caretaker. In my student career, I have not had any experiences regarding abuse nor have I had any patients of mine experiencing abuse (which I am aware of). I have however, had experiences regarding the issue of child abuse outside my career. My neighbor back home is a teacher in one of the schools in the rural areas and she comes back telling many stories of her students being abused by someone very close to them. All of that made me realize the predicament of wanting to help the child by alerting relevant authorities and also wanting to protect that child from having to deal with the consequences of ‘telling’ on the abuser and also not wanting to break the trust and confidentiality that the child trusted you with when they disclosed their situation to you.
Abuse might be a very complex and sensitive issue, but it is also a very important one and awareness on the topic needs to grow even more because even though a lot has been written or said and documented about it, very few people have a clear understanding of what constitutes as abuse.
Akmatov, M. K. (2010). Child abuse in 28 developing and transitional countries–results from the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys. International Journal of Epidemiology, 40(1), 219-227. doi:10.1093/ije/dyq168