How to eliminate child abuse and neglect

  • By Sanjay Akolkar

"Are you children of today or children of the grave?" or so goes a line from the eponymous song. Think children and our immediate associations are - innocence, purity, spontaneity, and love! Unfortunately, in these times ugly truths like sexual abuse, torture, child labor, and cruelty can also be associated with children, which just calls to mind one thing - are we really a civilized society? Is this how civilized people behave with those who can’t even fight back! The statistics for child abuse and neglect in the US alone is staggering and absolutely frightening.

Here's what an article in the Washington post has to say about child abuse and neglect in the USA alone.

"Experts estimate that more than 2000 children die from abuse and neglect each year, with nearly 82 percent of the victims under the age of 4. The Every Child Matters Education Fund points out the 15,510 children known to have died between 2001 and 2010 is about 2½ times the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. But according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, these numbers are underreported because there is no national standard for reporting."

15,510 children known to have died between 2001 and 2010 in the US alone from unnatural causes. This is about 2½ times the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Isn't it time we stopped to take notice of what we are doing to our children?

So if this is the story of a developed superpower, what hope does one have from undeveloped third world nations? It could only get worse! The question here isn’t one of which country has the least or maximum number of child abuse and neglect cases. It is a worldwide phenomenon which could visit your house and your child next. We can wring our hands in despair or we can empower ourselves and stop it dead in its tracks.


Developing sensitivity towards children :

Giving birth to a child is tad easier than looking after him. Parents in nuclear families are career oriented so they may not have the time that it requires to look after a growing child's emotional and physical needs. Materially, the child may have the best of everything, yet he/she could be in severe distress from parental neglect. Parental neglect is thus akin to child abuse. It is just as severe and criminal in nature. Parents sometimes leave their child in the care of a professional child care or baby care setup where they might get security or are looked after properly.

However, that doesn’t quite equal to the time and attention which natural parents can give their children. Yes, it is about sacrifice and giving up something to take care of your children. After all, they didn’t exactly have a choice there, did they? The choice was entirely the parents’. The ages 4-7 is when both parents have to ensure that they provide the fertile soil in which the child’s mental and physical development can take place. Thus, it includes everything, right from ensuring that he has a healthy diet to he is secure in every possible manner whatsoever.

Keeping a watch out for possible crimes against children :

Crimes against children can happen right at home. They may not necessarily be violent crimes, but they do happen. Even an abusive relationship between parents can fill a child's life with utter dread, fear, and mental depression for years to come. What's most heartbreaking is that children from broken families/alcoholic homes/violent parents somehow think they are responsible for their parents' misery and soon go through vicious cycles of abuse and self-destructions, which can make their adult life a misery.

The scars run deep and the real criminals go unpunished. Then comes the conventional and serious crimes against children - sexual abuse. This is one of the most sickening of acts that a human being can inflict on an innocent child. Sexual abuse can happen to children of either gender, and yes it is as devastating as physical assault. Sexual abuse may be petting or fondling a child against his wishes or forcing oneself sexually on him/her. Most times the child is unaware of the fact that he/she is being sexually abused. Child rape cases have risen dramatically all over the world and many a times the perpetrators are close relatives, who take undue advantage of the trust that the parents might have in them.

At times even authority figures like teachers, pastors, and blood relatives have abused children either sexually or through constant humiliation and mental torture. As parents, it is your duty to ensure that children should be instructed to understand the nature of abuse in such a way that they don't end up pointing fingers at someone’s genuine affection. This is a very difficult thing to do, but something that has to be done at all costs.

For children to open up to you as parents, you must build an atmosphere of trust and security, wherein a child will feel like telling you every little thing that happens to him. This way you can ensure complete protection to him/her.