Enakshi Dutta, Director of IDeA, currently based in Guwahati. She has studied finance and management, she has done several assignments with state, national and international NGO’s, business enterprises, and Government Departments. And been a Guest Faculty with Academic and Research Institutes. She strives to support organizations and social entrepreneurs to develop, sustain and promote peoples issues and mobilize resource for the development of the north eastern region of India.
A child is the delight of a family. She/he is the pride and the life of its parents. A Child is the hope and the future of the society. She/he is a treasure all wish to nourish so that she/he grows to be a good human, able to positively contribute to the family and society. We put in all efforts to keep a child protected and safe, within the family, friends, home and schools. We keep them away from strangers and place them safely only in the hands of parents, people close to them or people we trust and who have the authority.
Yet, inspite of doing all that is right, inspite of the innocence warmth and love that emits out of every child, insipte of being in the right places and in the right hands, how are they still abused? When we hear of Child Abuse, the thought that initially comes to one’s mind is that it must be the work of a few pervert minds, who is not close to the child. It would be someone from among the strangers from whom we always try to safeguard our kids. But, is that always the case? Are all children safe and happy at home with their parents? Child Abuse in India – A study by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India released in 2007 made some vey telling findings. The National Study on Child abuse was one of the largest empirical study of its kind covering 13 sample states and complement the UN Secretary General’s Global Study on Violence Against Children 2006. The major findings were:
It has very clearly emerged that across different kinds of abuse, it is young children, in the 5-12 year group, who are most at risk of abuse and exploitation.
1. Two out of every three children were physically abused.
2. Out of 69% children physically abused in 13 sample states, 54.68% were boys.
3. Over 50% children in all the 13 sample states were being subjected to one or the other form of physical abuse.
4. Out of those children physically abused in family situations, 88.6% were physically abused by parents.
5. 65% of school going children reported facing corporal punishment i.e. two out of three children were victims of corporal punishment.
6. 62% of the corporal punishment was in government and municipal school.
7. The State of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar and Delhi have almost consistently reported higher rates of abuse in all forms as compared to other states.
8. Most children did not report the matter to anyone.
9. 50.2% children worked seven days a week.
1. 53.22% children reported having faced one or more forms of sexual abuse.
2. Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar and Delhi reported the highest percentage of sexual abuse among both boys and girls.
3. 21.90% child respondents reported facing severe forms of sexual abuse and 50.76% other forms of sexual abuse.
4. Out of the child respondents, 5.69% reported being sexually assaulted.
5. Children in Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Delhi reported the highest incidence of sexual assault.
6. Children on street, children at work and children in institutional care reported the highest incidence of sexual assault.
7. 50% abuses are persons known to the child or in a position of trust and responsibility.
8. Most children did not report the matter to anyone.
Emotional Abuse and Girl Child Neglect
1. Every second child reported facing emotional abuse.
2. Equal percentage of both girls and boys reported facing emotional abuse.
3. In 83% of the cases parents were the abusers.
4. 48.4% of girls wished they were boys.
An attempt was made in the study on Child Abuse in India to see the extent of physical abuse of children in families as compared to the physical abuse of children by others. The study revealed that the percentage of physical abuse inflicted by family members (48.7%) was higher than that of others (34.0%). Further, age break up of child respondents shows that the highest percentage of physical abuse was among younger children (5 -12 years) i.e., 54.47%. Considering the fact that the family is expected to provide a protective environment to the child, especially during the formative years, the high percentage is both surprising and alarming.
This report is a pointer to the magnitude of abuse that happens within families and homes. We are normally very comfortable talking about abuse that happens in public, be it about street children, child labour, trafficking, prostitution, child marriage. Of late there is also a lot of discussion that we hear about institutional abuse be it corporal punishment in schools, sexual abuse in institutions and care homes. But very less is spoken on abuse within the family and homes. Child abuse is more than bruises and broken bones. While physical abuse might be the most visible, other types of abuse, such as emotional abuse and neglect, also leave deep, lasting scars. While physical abuse is shocking due to the scars it leaves, not all child abuse is as obvious. Ignoring children’s needs, putting them in unsupervised, dangerous situations, or making a child feel worthless or stupid are also child abuse. Regardless of the type of child abuse, the result is serious emotional harm. Neglect and emotional abuse can be just as damaging, and since they are more subtle than others, are less likely to intervene.
While it’s easy to say that only “bad people” abuse their children, it’s not always so black and white. Not all abusers are intentionally harming their children. Many have been victims of abuse themselves, and don’t know any other way to parent. If you grew up in a household where screaming and shouting or violence was the norm, you may not know any other way to raise your kids. Others may be struggling with mental health issues or alcoholism or substance abuse, economic / social problem. Child abuse does not only happen in poor families or bad neighbourhoods either. It crosses all racial, economic, and cultural lines.
Sometimes, families who seem to have it all from the outside are hiding a different story behind closed doors.
We talk of corporal punishment at schools does it not happen at home? We talk of lack of security outside our homes, how safe are our children within their homes? In the name of discipline and punishment most times child abuse happens within family. While disciplining and punishment is an important part of child grooming one needs to also be conscious not taking it to the level of abuse. Growing levels of stress of care givers / parents is also a great contributor to child abuse. Competitive and comparative pressures add to emotional abuse of children by parents themselves. And many a times people we trust and entrust our children with, also take advantage of lack of parents time and neglect, which is largely seen in cases of sexual abuse.
The risk factors of Child Abuse as has been very well captured by Dr. Rasha Salama, PhD Community Medicine, Suez Canal University, Egypt
Risk Factors for Child Abuse
• High crime rate
• Lack of or few social services
• High poverty rate
• High unemployment rate
• Personal history of physical or sexual abuse as a child
• Teenage parents
• Single parent
• Emotional immaturity
• Poor coping skills
• Low self-esteem
• Personal history of substance abuse
• Known history of child abuse
• Lack of social support
• Domestic violence
• Lack of parenting skills
• Lack of preparation for the extreme stress of having a new infant
• History of depression or other mental health problems
• Multiple young children
• Unwanted pregnancy
• Denial of pregnancy
• Low birth weight
We can see there is so much that links child abuse with parents, but are we really doing or even talking enough about it. The kind of violent behaviours that our children are meted with we can only expect them to grow up to violence and negativity. Exposure to any form of abuse does have an impact on the child as they grow into adulthood.
All types of child abuse and neglect leave lasting scars. Some of these scars might be physical, but emotional scarring has long lasting effects throughout life, damaging a child’s sense of self esteem, ability to have healthy relationships, and ability to function at home, at work and at school. It is time for more efforts towards stopping child abuse, wherever it is happening, whoever is
doing it and in whatever form. It is a change of mindset that needs to happen as quite a lot ofthis also has a cultural or social acceptance in our country. It is largely seen as a private matter and thus intervening is difficult. And many parents also see it as an individual choice on how they wish to bring up their children. But we still should not shy away and perhaps start from within.
- Recognise abusive behaviour in oneself.
Raising children is one of life’s profound challenges and can trigger anger and frustration in the most even tempered. Recognizing that you have a problem is the biggest step to getting help. Children experience their world as normal. It may have been normal in your family to be slapped or pushed for little to no reason, or that mother was too drunk to cook dinner. It may have been normal for your parents to call you stupid, clumsy, or worthless. Or it may have been normal to watch your mother get beaten up by your father. It is only as adults that we have the perspective to step back and take a hard look at what is normal and what is abusive.
- Develop parenting skills.
While learning to control your emotions is critical, one also needs a game plan of what you are going to do instead. Learning appropriate discipline techniques and how to set clear boundaries for your children. Also turning to other parents for tips and advice, books etc. Having realistic expectations of what children can handle at certain ages will help avoid frustration and anger at normal child behaviour.
- Support and share information.
There is a saying that it takes a village to rear a child. Community support is a self regulating mechanism in place. The more people a child interacts with, the easier it is to notice any behavioural changes that could be arising due to abuse. There is also a tendency to hide information which may create unease in parents / loved ones and in the process allow the abuser to continue his/her way, not realising the damage caused. We need to create conducive environment for information sharing so that proper and timely counselling and intervention can be made saving much damage.
- Help an abused or neglected child.
Child abuse is a difficult subject that can be hard to accept and even harder to talk about. Just remember, you can make a tremendous difference in the life of an abused child, especially if you take steps to stop the abuse early. When talking with an abused child, the best thing you can provide is calm reassurance and unconditional support. Remember that talking about the abuse may be very difficult for the child. It’s your job to reassure the child and provide whatever help you can.
- Reporting child abuse.
Where one is unable to counsel or intervene it is important to report. Many people are reluctant to get involved in other families’ lives, but we need to realise that the effects of child abuse is lifelong and we need to break this cycle. There are Government and Non Governmental institution working for Child Protection who could be informed.
If we wish that our future generations live in peace and positivity, we need to give that to them when they are a child. One of the root causes of the rising violence and crime that we see around us is the exposure to violence and abuse as a child. This is something that we as parents and as a society would need to work on more than the government or any other institution.