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    Citizen Voices

    To Curb Child Abuse, Understand Its Roots And Start Talking About It

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    Child abuse has engulfed the country and left parents distraught. It remains a less understood, but deeply permeated, issue. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines child abuse as “all kinds of emotional and physical maltreatment, neglect, sexual abuse, and exploitation that damage the child’s health, development and dignity.”

    Child abuse can be physical, which includes corporal punishments, often taken up by parents and teachers to discipline children. Usually a means of venting anger or instilling fear, physical abuse is common in madrassas, schools, and homes, and hinders the natural growth of the victim exerting energy to dodge the guardians’ angst.

    A study of 274 Punjab University bachelors students, ‘Prevalence of Child Abuse among the University Students’, underlined physical abuse as most frequent, with 57% prevalence. The percentage of male victims (68%) was higher than female (46%).

    Abuse can also be emotional, which means psychological manhandling hindering proper mental and social development of children. This can be carried out via humiliation, browbeating, intimidation, unsympathetic criticism, derogatory language, or keeping the child away from other children. According to the abovementioned research, emotional abuse is the second most prevalent with 53%, in which female victims (54%) are slightly higher than male (53%).

    Sexual abuse includes coerced intercourse, exposing sexual parts of the anatomy, or showing pornographic content to children. Cases of sexual abuse, carrying physical, psychological, and social ramifications for the victim, are growing in the country.

    According to the organisation ‘Sahil’ the number child sexual abuse cases grew from 2,252 in 2010 to 4,139 in 2016. 2,960 children were sexually abused last year.

    Neglect, which includes the failure of guardians to fulfill the physical and psychological needs of children, has far-reaching impact on children’s mental development. Neglect can be physical, medical, emotional, or educational. The Punjab University study recorded neglect being present in 40% of students.

    To curb child abuse, it is critical to understand its roots. The research paper ‘An in-depth insight into child abuse and its impact on the personality of victims’ cites ‘intergenerational transmission of aggression and violent behavior’ as the first cause. Research shows that “30pc of the children who witnessed abuses in childhood were more likely to become the abusive parents”.

    ‘Social and communal stress’ is another leading cause, which is linked to issues like unemployment, poverty, demise in family, disability, etc. Usually, the use of alcohol by the father creates an emotional, psychological, and mental imbalance in children.

    In many cases, abusers are socially secluded. Less contact with the outside world accelerates aggressive behaviour and triggers social pressure. Also, the dearth of social networking and understanding makes abusers unable to align with societal ethics or evolve via learning.

    Two kinds of families are likelier to see child abuse: those with a single parent, or fractured. The lack of a parent, or tussles between spouses, has direct impact on children. ‘Unintended pregnancies’, leading to children born as a result of forced sexual intercourse also tend to go through perpetual mistreatment and aren’t wholeheartedly accepted by their parents.

    A study conducted in the US about the murders of children showed that “children are 100 times more likely to be murdered by their step-parents in comparison to biological parents.” This is called the ‘Cinderella effect’.

    We in Pakistan hardly take help from a psychologist in child abuse cases due to the stigma attached to it. Cognitive Behavior Therapy can be useful to recover a victim’s dignity. Parents-child therapies are also effective in coping with emotional abuse.

    We need extensive public awareness about the gravity of the issue with media campaigns needed to sensitise parents. The school administration must also educate children about their security, which should be a feature of regular parent-teacher meetings. Parent counseling centers can also play a significant role to make them cognisant of the child’s mental health.

    In many cases, the rampancy of a crime indicates a poor system of accountability. From capturing culprits to ensuring punishments, a scrupulous implementation of rule of law is required.

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