When we think of domestic violence, we imagine rape, harassment, violent behaviour, emotional abuse and other forms. The same applies to Child abuse, the missing item is the child.
Child abuse is when actions played by adults, caregivers and parents lead to the death, injury, emotional pain of a child.
Child abuse is as terrible as domestic violence, and even more depressing because a child is involved. It could be neglect, any form of abandonment, emotional abuse, exploitation or physical.
Cruelty can come in form of any individual, employers, teachers or even parents when it comes to children. It’s everywhere, like a plaque that has refused to leave; an insufferable cycle to human kind.
Every child or at least 60% of children, at one point or the other in life, have experienced a sense of abandonment in their lives. Some are at the mercy of caregivers, foster parents, househelps or nannies.
Some children experience worse abuse at the hands of their religious leaders, some, at the hands of a paedophile.
In Africa, we believe in instilling fear to command respect. We call it discipline. Is it really discipline or early onset of child abuse? Some are subjected to constant cycle of hardship from their parents because their parents experienced the same treatment.
‘Spoil the rod and spare the child’. But can this really work? Even the holy books condemn sparing the child. As a parent, one important role is nurturing your children in discipline. But do you know you can discipline a child without resulting in an abuse?
In the first half of the 19th century, there was a growing rate of crimes committed towards children especially filicide, an act known as the parental killing of children, often committed from paternal rage, sexual harassment towards kids.
There have been cases where a father transfers aggression to his innocent children every time he and the wife get heated up in an argument. Or a case of having an often drunk father, who constantly rapes the children with or without the knowledge of their mother.
Also, there have also been cases of stepfathers abusing children to make the woman suffer or simply because they are not his. The same goes to the mothers as well, or caretakers.
Cases of father-daughter rape, Uncle/Aunt-niece/nephew rape were also on the rise, even children sexually molested by adults they trust.
It is even worse when such acts becomes accepted because of some certain cultural values. It is no news that minors are seen as a ripe age for sexual activities in the Northern part of Nigeria where children from age 8 upwards are given to an adult with wives to oversee or be a husband to.
These acts have psychological effects on the children. Some end up as washed up souls, damaged souls with bitter and shallow mindsets.
News dailies are packed with daily cases of child abuse, either you hear cases of a CCTV clip showing an irritating and disturbing maltreatment given to babies and children or you hear of a child who was scalded with hot substance.
Cases of starvation, where kids are locked up in a room with no food or water, and forced to eat just anything to survive. Some adults do this to children out of their own selfish reasons, while others claim it’s a form of punishment. Certain parents caught in these acts have been apprehended in the last years.
A common case is that of the Turpin children in California. A case where twelve children were locked up in their house with no means of adequate food or interaction with the outside world.
The parents, David and Louise Turpin, starved and held their twelve kids in a house for years until one of the daughters, who was seventeen at that time escaped with a phone in her hands and she was able to call for help.
Officials who saw her didn’t believe she was seventeen because she looked like much younger. The house was broken into and children from age 2- 29 were rescued, all looking frail, underdeveloped and tired. David and Louise were arrested and jailed.
Another case of child abuse was reported in Singapore, where a father was sexually active with his daughter for seven years, until he was arrested and jailed. He reportedly started the evil act when the child was only seven years old.
This brings us to the recent case of a popular Nigerian actor and entertainer, Mr Olanrewaju James Omiyinka, popularly known as Baba Ijesha, who is currently in an alleged rape case of a 14-year-old girl. According to the victim, the man defiled and molested her seven years ago when she was seven.
The actor confessed after a CCTV clip proved the act.
The case had created mixed feelings and a series of turn-outs of sympathy towards the victim. This is also surprising unlike before when victims are often castigated after suffering rape.
Although some members of the public are still trying to justify the act by shifting blames and calling it a setup. The investigation is still ongoing. Now, is the victim just lucky because the suspect is a popular person or because she has voices through evidence, or a known foster mother and people around her?
What happens when it’s the other way round with little or no evidence? A lot of unsolved cases have been long closed, some were caught in the act but because of power and influence, they walk free.
Most times, the society turns on victims instead. I have heard someone say, “Why didn’t she report seven years ago?” Another said, “It’s long gone, why bring it up now?” These are reasons victims go into hiding after such acts have been committed. But in children, where would they go?
Now, sexual abuse is not the only type of child abuse out there. Children are defenceless, they have no idea what’s going on. It’s barbaric for an adult to treat kids like a piece of trash.
How do you treat your maids at home? Do your starve them? Do you beat them mercilessly like they have no parents? Some are whipped daily, so bad that it becomes a daily chore. Some are bathed with pepper, and other hot substances.
Some children become a pawn in the marriage of their parents. They toss them here and there, neglecting their activities, how they grow, even their medical stats. Some are subjected to savage atrocities, torture, and starvation. Who are you trying so hard to become, the devil himself?
A 1962 paper titled in ‘THE BATTERED CHILD SYNDROME’ was published in the journal of the American Medical Association. It simply opened up the awareness of child maltreatment.
Children Rights were created to protect them from maltreatment and issue punishments to offenders.
However, this doesn’t apply to all regions especially places with conflicted cultural values like Africa, where matters are being interpreted according to how the elders see it. Elders, who already passed through such harsh conditions, believe they are well shaped because of the cruelty they had passed through, hereby forcing the child to go through the same.
While some do not consider neglect as an act of child abuse, some health practitioners disagree with this fact. They claim that neglect can affect the mental health/state of a child, so can starvation, sexual abuse and physical torture.
The World Health Organization describes child abuse as all forms of physical and emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation resulting in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship, or responsibility, trust or power.
In Africa, however, when a child gets whipped, he/she will be expected to walk into the room smiling like you’ve just had a holy communion, whereas it’s different elsewhere.
A call to their social services seals the day, a search and monitoring will be done on you as a guardian or parents and if found guilty, the child gets taken from you or you will be charged.
There is a thin line between child abuse and discipline.
The World Health Organization (WHO) distinguishes the four types of child abuse to be neglect, physical, sexual and emotional abuse.
*Four types of child abuse*
Child neglect happens when a parent or guardian, who is supposed to be in charge of a child, leaves. It happens when an adult, who expected to provide food, shelter, clothing, medical care, supervision, and safety, denies a child, now threatened by change.
When you give no attention to a child in your care, that’s also a type of child abuse. A child should be brought up with love, affection, and care.
Physical neglect, medical neglect, emotional neglect, educational neglect and abandonment are all obvious signs of neglect. A child should be properly supervised to avoid future harm, sexual abuse, medical defect or lack of encouragement.
The only way some people command respect is by beating, spanking, hurting, or the use of sharp or blunt objects to inflict injury. Intentional use of physical force against children includes beating, kicking, burning, poisoning, suffocating, shaking, use of sharp objects. Most physical abuse leads to death.
Child sexual abuse is another terrible form of child abuse. This abuse includes an adult(s), who derive pleasure or getting satisfaction sexually from children.
Forms of sexual abuse are having sexual contact with a child, exposing kids to pornography, engaging in sexual activities like fondling with their genitals, licking of fingers, stimulating their desires at a tender age or indecent exposure of genital to a child.
The sense of neglect messes with the psychological aspect of a child. All forms of abuse destroys a child’s mental health. This form of abuse damages a child’s self-worth. It includes constant abuses, bullying, berating the child or threats made to a child. It limits the child to what you want and not what they want.
What goes on in the mind of an abuser? An abuser sees him/herself as the one in control, as the one with the remote control of the child’s life. As a child, an adult is expected to be respected but when it’s an abuser, it changes from respect to fear.
What makes it even harder is the introduction of a third party. Abusers know, in full consciousness, that what they are doing to a child or children is totally wrong. Likewise, the victim feels the pain. But what happens when the child tells someone? Do they believe you or complicate issue even more?
The society is made to support victims, but what happens to the support that comes with sentiment? An adult rape victim is often rebuked for dressing in a certain type of way to promote rape. A child rape victim is blamed for not speaking up or for eating the biscuit an uncle(the later offender) promised her.
In the recent case of Baba Ijesha and the 14-year-old girl, there are speculations that maybe the little girl enjoyed it hence her late attempt to expose the perpetrator.
Recently, a twitter user with the name, Balogun Peace, made some strange revelations about how Baba Ijesha is being held and rebuked for no reason. Her reason is because the victim didn’t put up a fight when she was being harassed.
This is a third party to the case. Persons as such make judgements without looking back at the emotional effect the first attempt had probably caused on a seven-year-old girl.
Third parties sometimes are the problem. They involve the members of the society, individual thoughts and sentiments.
Matters are often made to look like no big deal when it comes to the harsh treatment given to maids working for their abusers. Even when these children are of the same age as your kids, they are different and should be treated as such.
Effects of child abuse on the victims include guilt, self-blame, anxiety, nightmares, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), low self-esteem, depression, loss of sense of attachment, trust issues, mental illness, unwanted pregnancies and most times, sexual transmitted diseases and even death.
The society versus victim
A victim will always be a victim. He/she was the one who was harassed, beaten, and exposed to different forms of attacks. No matter how easy we make it look, they feel the most pain.
The society in this context, just like the third party, is that person, who feels the need to judge, criticize or attend carefully to a case of any abuse. The society can be you, and it could be a bunch of people.
How do you perceive child abuse, how do you relate? Do you treat matters with sentiment or you are a realistic person when it comes to judgements?
Our society finds it difficult to be in a victim’s shoe until the dice is thrown at them, then all hell breaks loose. An act you stylishly ignore because of a relationship with the accused is slowly but keeping up, and marching to you. It is a cycle that needs to be broken.
When a child is reported to be beaten and ends up with a series of unimaginable injuries, some praise the perpetrator calling it discipline, while some refer it as ‘lesson to others’. When your child is beaten in school, you march up to the school to rebuke the teacher but you pounce on your child maid whenever he/she does something wrong.
There is no need to mince words, that’s child abuse.