The pages you look through will define the different types of child abuse that our society sees and is trying to eradicate. Education, awareness and law changes have helped people to understand what child abuse is.
Child abuse is the abuse of any person under the age of 16. There are numerous laws surrounding children including the Children Act: protection from maltreatment/harm, safe and effective care and the Domestic Violence Act. Child abuse is defined as causing significant harm to a child under the age of 18. This can be physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse or neglect. All these types of abuse can have a profound lifelong affect on a child.
Their are of course other types of abuse that children suffer and witnessing domestic abuse is categorised as emotional abuse of a child. Witnessing the abuse of a main carer has the same psychological affect on a child as they would have if they had been abused themselves.
Unfortunately for many children the category of significant harm is not realised and their abuse falls under the radar. Abuse can be seen and known within a family but not recognised as abuse. Sometimes abuse within a family is a vicious cycle, passed down from generation to generation. Sometimes abuse is common place and the people in the family just accept it or do not even know it is abuse. Sometimes this is also a cultural thing or a religious matter. Many holy scriptures talk about obedience and chastising the child or even the wife by way of physically punishing that individual.
Society today expresses an opinion that physical abuse is wrong and should not be tolerated. Campaigns of ZERO TOLERANCE to racism, hate crime, xenophobia, homophobia, and of course Domestic Violence have been pushed forward to stamp out this kind of behaviour. Yet in England physically smacking a child is not an offence.
Why? Well because a vast amount of the population believe that some form of physical chastisement is needed at times when a child is behaving in a certain way. Take for example quotes such as “it never did me any harm”, “sometimes you have to draw a line and get the child under control”, “Children have to learn consequences to their actions”.
Compare these answers to 60 years ago when it was common place for a teacher, a police officer, a neighbour or any adult who thought you were doing wrong to give you “a clip round the ear hole”. Hitting a child was more accepted then than now. This shows that society has moved on in the last 60 years however the nature of child abuse in today’s society tells us is that some families have not moved forward and abuse such as name calling, smacking, punishing by removing meals is something that families have continued to pass down to each other because it worked for their parents. “It never did me any harm” brigade.
How can we change this?
Educating people, people educating themselves and raising awareness of what is abuse and understanding why these things happen will help change people’s perception of abuse.
More campaigns around abuse, healthy relationships and bullying will teach this new generation of children that one day when they become parents they can find alternative roots and coping strategies to chastise and punish their children when they do wrong.