November 19th has been declared World Day for Prevention of Child Abuse. Child abuse refers to the physical, emotional, sexual and psychological abuse experienced by a child, which unfortunately is a widespread phenomenon in the so-called advanced countries as well as in the rest of the world.
Physical abuse starts from a violent push to beating or painful punishments. Emotional abuse is neglect, abandonment, criticism, rejection, comparison, devaluation that a child receives from his own parents or others, even from his teachers. Sexual abuse refers to any sexual act or an attempted one on a child. Finally, psychological abuse refers to any situation that stresses and scares the child, such as the problematic relationship between parents, but also the imposition of excessive power exercised by parents on their children.
In Greece, according to the Greek Institute of Child Health, about 4.000 children are seriously abused each year. In particular, according to the latest inter-Balkan survey (2012), Greece holds the first place in psychological abuse.
What are the signs of a child being abused?
- The sudden change in behavior or performance in school.
- Learning difficulties or inability to concentrate, which is not due to organic or other psychological causes.
- The child is skeptical, frightened and overly yielding.
- Goes to school or other activities early, stays up late and does not want to go back home.
The child has intense feelings of guilt, anxiety, depression. Moreover, severe mental traumas occur, which in the future can turn the child into a troubled adult who has difficulty in trusting, loving, who also has anxiety disorders, adaptability problems, inclination to addictions and depression. In addition, a child that has been abused may also commit child abuse when he becomes an adult. Besides, parents who use physical punishment and negative commentary almost always reproduce their own parental pattern.
What can we do as observers?
- First of all, stop being observers and start intervening, by first telling the person who produces violence that what he is doing is forbidden. The answer that we may receive is indifferent (e.g. “mind your own business”), however it is important to show that such behaviors are not acceptable.
- If we are neighbors and have noticed repeated abuse (voices of distress, crying, objects that break), we can first call a prosecutor and then the police, maintaining if we want our anonymity. Without a public prosecutor’s mandate, police officers can only make some “recommendations”, that are usually not enough to stop the violence, which can then become more “silent” and threatening.
So let’s have our eyes and ears open to those children who suffer and are in danger. Child abuse is not a “family affair” but a responsibility we all have to bear.
Offer love and a safe environment to the children …it’s good for you!