Child abuse. A morally corrupt act that has become so normalized in today’s world that people think that there’s nothing wrong with physically, emotionally, and or mentally abusing children.
Incidents of child abuse continue to rise. Sometimes it’s our teachers, our peers, and even parents who are guilty of it. Today’s children need to know how to recognize the warning signs and how to report it.
Many kids are still unaware of what it really is, and how it affects our well-being. What to do when and if we witness child abuse in our surroundings?
To ensure the safety of not just our own children, but also others who can’t fight for themselves, it is extremely important to know the following things to report child abuse in Pakistan.
What is child abuse?
In the most basic sense, child abuse is when an adult intentionally harms someone who is underage or can’t make a decision for themself.
According to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children,
Child abuse is when a child is intentionally harmed by an adult or another child – it can be over a period of time but can also be a one-off action.
The definition by Child Abuse organization is very similar as well:
Child abuse is when a parent or caregiver, whether through action or failing to act, causes injury, death, emotional harm or risk of serious harm to a child.
It is important to note that there are many different forms of abuse that an adult can inflict upon a child. We will discuss the various types of child abuse in this post as well.
Acts that Legally Qualify as Child Abuse
Noted psychologist Elise M. Howard has offered family therapies and worked with schools and communities in many different therapy programs since 2012. In an article from 2018, Elise defined several different acts carried out by adults against children that legally qualify as child abuse.
Some of them include:
- Hitting a child intentionally (not for parental guidance),
- threatening them,
- leaving them in isolation,
- leaving them unsupervised or with incapable supervisors,
- exposing them to illegal activities like drugs, pornography, sexual contact with a child or adult,
- not providing them with the basic necessities that are required (food, shelter, medicine, education, safe environment), or
- abandoning them and being unable to locate them (if missing).
Child Abuse in Pakistan
Before we get into the facts, let’s try to understand why child abuse is so common yet neglected in Pakistan. Oftentimes, the perpetrator is someone from the family, which is why many adults choose to remain hush-hush about this sensitive topic.
Apart from it being a family matter, parents usually trust their extended family members blindly. The child, being naive to it all, does not know it as child abuse till he/she has grown up and processes it. Often times, the emotional trauma from that realization hits them too late.
The importance of communication between a parent and their child also plays a huge role in this scenario. Due to the lack of communication among them in Pakistan, child abuse remains an unresolved subject.
Keeping in mind that many of the cases are not reported to the concerned authorities, a report published by Geo News revealed that as many as eight children were sexually abused in the year 2019.
According to the report, more than 2000 cases of child abuse were reported during that year:
Of the total, 778 were abductions, 405 children went missing, 384 were cases of sodomy, 279 of rape, 210 of attempted rape, 205 of gang sodomy cases and 115 of gang rape.
Sahil, an NGO working for the cause, posted a detailed report Cruel Numbers 2019. The report states that more than half of these cases happened in Punjab.
Here’s the breakdown of incidents by province:
- 53% cases reported from Punjab,
- 30% cases from Sindh,
- 7% cases from Islamabad Capital territory,
- 6% cases from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP),
- 2% cases from Balochistan,
- and less from Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Gilgit Baltistan (GB).
Types of Child Abuse
As mentioned by ReachOut Australia in 2020, there are 4 main types of child abuse:
When an adult intentionally causes physical harm to a child that leads to injury or death.
Hitting, beating, shaking, punching, biting, burning, scratching, strangling or choking a child are all examples of child abuse
When someone neglects a child of love, support, and mistreats them verbally.
Bullying, yelling, isolating, criticizing, terrorizing, ignoring, and shaming are all types of emotional abuse.
An ill-intentioned and sexual contact between a child and an adult comes under sexual abuse.
Sexual abuse can be voyeurism (spying on or watching a child), sexual acts and incest (sex between family members).
Psychological Effects of Child Abuse
While a child may not be aware that he/she is a victim of child abuse, it still affects one’s mental and emotional state. Realizing at a later stage may put an individual through a lot of stress, anxiety, and anger.
It can also lead to several psychological disorders.
According to research conducted by Child Welfare in 2019, the psychological effects of child abuse include:
- Disruptive brain development (effect on memory, self-control, learning, paying attention),
- poor mental and emotional health (depression, anxiety, psychiatric disorders, higher suicide attempts),
- attachment and social difficulties (antisocial traits, leading to criminal behavior), and
- posttraumatic stress (re-experiencing traumatic events, feeling fear, anger, guilt, shame, depression, substance abuse, deviant behaviors).
What Can You Do to Help?
Child abuse is a global issue. It is also extremely prevalent in Pakistan.
Because child abuse has life-altering consequences, it is important that we play our part as responsible citizens.
PreventChildAbuse posted 10 ways you can prevent child abuse.
The most important way someone can prevent it from happening is by being a nurturing parent. Letting your child know that they are loved and valued will help them become vocal with what is bothering them. This is important so that children do not suffer in silence.
Today’s parents should create open communication among themselves and their children.
It is also important to step in and help a friend in need. If you see a distressed or overworked parent, on the verge of breaking down, lend them a helping hand.
PreventChildAbuse also mentioned the importance of educational programs for children, parents, and even teachers. Such programs can promote a better understanding among parents and their children, preventing any future mishaps.
Parents are advised to keep a close check on their kids’ television and social media usage. Watching violent movies or playing violent games can lead to disruptive upbringing.
Another way you can intervene is by getting in touch with organizations that deal with child abuse.
Sahil is a Non-Governmental Organization in Pakistan that helps children who have faced abuse. They work for child protection, and you can help by volunteering at these organizations. You can also help by reporting cases of child abuse that you witness to NGO’s like Sahil.
Although topics like child abuse are considered a taboo in some parts of the world, it is important for us to work together and start an open dialogue about it. Volunteer, nurture and engage in conversations to change mindsets.
Have anything to add? Let us know in the comments section.