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Monday, 24 November 2014

Child abuse- Know the signs and put a stop to it

Children are like flowers; they brighten the atmosphere and cheer us with their presence. Sadly, these flowers are wilting due to the increasing incidence of child abuse and neglect.

Child Abuse 

According to Us Federal child abuse prevention and treatment act, child abuse is
“Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.”

History of child abuse


The first documented case of child abuse occurred in 1874. A child named Mary Allen was discovered chained to the bedpost. Her plight was brought to attention of American Society for Prevention of Cruelty against Animals, who interceded on her behalf. Subsequently, in 1875, American Society for Prevention of Cruelty against Children was formed.

In 1962, Henry Kemp coined the term, ‘battered child syndrome’ in his classic article. According to Kemp, the syndrome should be considered in any child exhibiting evidence of fractures of any long bone, subdural hematoma, failure to thrive, soft tissue swelling or skin bruising.

Child sexual abuse laws in India have been enacted as part of the nation's child protection policies. The Parliament of India passed the 'Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Bill, 2011' regarding child sexual abuse on May 22, 2012 into Act.

Types of child abuse


Physical abuse


Physical abuse is non-accidental physical injury that is inflicted by a parent, caregiver, or other person who has responsibility for the child. Such injury is considered abuse regardless of whether the caregiver intended to hurt the child. Some signs of physical abuse are unexplained burns, bites, bruises, broken bones, or black eyes. The child seems frightened of parents and cries when it’s time to go home, and may abuse animals or pets.
Physical discipline is not considered abuse as long as it is reasonable and causes no bodily injury to the child. It is important to distinguish physical abuse from a reasonable physical punishment. Physical abuse includes corporal punishment:
  • that causes bruises
  • delivered by kicking or use of closed fist
  • delivered to other areas than the buttocks,legs or hands
  • that requires medical treatment
  • administered more than three times a day
  • delivered using multiple blows
  • involves vigorous shaking of a small child
  • delivered to a child before he/she learns to walk

Sexual abuse


Sexual abuse is defined by CAPTA as “the employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of any child to engage in, or assist any other person to engage in, any sexually explicit conduct or simulation of such conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct; or the rape, and in cases of caretaker or inter-familial relationships, statutory rape, molestation, prostitution, or other form of sexual exploitation of children, or incest with children.”

Physical injury is often absent in these children. Some of the signs of sexual abuse in children are: the child has difficulty walking or sitting, suddenly refuses to change for gym or to participate in physical activities ,reports nightmares or bed-wetting or demonstrates bizarre, sophisticated, or unusual sexual knowledge or behaviour.

Child marriage is also a form of child sexual abuse.



Neglect is the failure of a parent, guardian,or other caregiver to provide for a child’s basic needs. Neglect may be:
  • Physical neglect:
It is failure to care for a child according to accepted standards. Physical neglect is usually due to poverty, parental ignorance or stresses placed on family. This type of neglect need to be addressed by helping the family rather than reporting to the authorities.
  • Medical neglect
When a parent or care taker ignores the treatment recommendations of a treatable illness, that a child has and is becoming worse, it is classified as medical/health care neglect.
  • Educational neglect
When a parent or a caretaker intentionally permits chronic truancy and keeps the child at home or does not enrol the child in school.
  • Emotional Neglect
Emotional neglect includes inadequate affection, knowingly permitting the child to use alcohol or drugs or refusing to allow remedial care for emotional problems.
Some of the signs of neglect are, the child is frequently absent from school , begs or steals food or money, lacks needed medical or dental care, immunizations, lacks sufficient clothing for the weather, abuses alcohol or other drugs

Emotional abuse


Emotional abuse is the continual scapegoating and rejection of a child by parents, caretakers, or teachers. This includes verbal abuse that belittles the child and attacks the child’s feeling of self-worth. Emotional abuse is often difficult to prove.
Some of the signs of emotional abuse in a child are, the child shows extremes in behaviour, such as overly compliant or demanding behaviour, extreme passivity, or aggression, reports a lack of attachment to the parent.

Signs of child abuse

The abused child

  • Child is unduly afraid or passive. (especially of his or her parents)
  • Child shows evidence of prolonged confinement.
  • Child shows sudden changes in behaviour or school performance .
  • Child has not received help for physical or medical problems brought to the parents’ attention .
  • Child is always watchful, as though preparing for something bad to happen .
  • Child has learning problems (or difficulty concentrating) that cannot be attributed to specific physical or psychological causes .
  • Child comes to school or other activities early, stays late, and does not want to go home.
  • Child is reluctant to be around a particular person .
  • The child discloses maltreatment.

The abuser: Parent

  • Overtly critical behaviour towards the child and never describing the child in positive terms.
  • Asks teachers or other caregivers to use harsh physical discipline if the child misbehaves .
  • Denies the existence of—or blames the child for—the child’s problems in school or at home .
  • Violent tempers or outbursts.
  • Looks primarily to the child for care, attention, and satisfaction of the parent’s emotional needs .
  • Unrealistic expectations of child’s behaviour.
  • Requests for treatment long after the injury has occurred.
  • Appearance of confusion or embarrassment when discussing the child’s trauma.

What you can do

Learning to recognize signs and symptoms of abuse is the first step in helping abused children. Though the presence of a single sign cannot warrant child abuse,when multiple signs appear repeatedly, it is important to have a closer look at the situation.

Here is a booklet by unicef which tells you what you can do. UNICEF India’s #ENDviolence #ItStartsWithMe campaign aims at raising awareness about different forms of violence, including physical, emotional, sexual and child marriage. Join hands and take a step to #ENDviolence against children. I can #ENDviolence because #ItStartsWithMe.

If you suspect a child is being maltreated, reporting the suspicion might protect the child and get help for the family. Reporting suspicions is not making an accusation, but it is a request for assessment of the situation and call for help.

In India there, there are few organisations who help victims of child abuse. Rahi foundation and CHILDLINE India are some of them.


Childline India is one of them. Childline India Foundation runs CHILDLINE 1098, India's 24-hour emergency helpline for children in distress. Launched in 1996, CHILDLINE is available in 291 cities and districts in India. CHILDLINE works for the protection of the rights of vulnerable children, including victims of sexual abuse, forced labour and trafficking, as well as street children and missing children, among others. Children who need direct intervention are reached within an hour of calling 1098.

Children should be allowed to bloom, and brighten this world. It is our first and foremost duty to protect them from any sort of abuse and neglect. Remember, there is no future for us without happy children. Don’t let anyone or anything wipe the smiles of these children. As the UNICEF’s campaign rightly says #ItStartsWithMe.

This post is part of Shankhnaad for happy children. If you want to read similar posts, check out Happy children equals a happy world.


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  1. Very relevant & nicely shared, Kiran.
    So many types of abuse... Hope no child is abused.

    1. Thanks Anita. I hope so too. It's a pity people can be so cruel.

  2. This is a very pertinent post Kiran. These are the things that we need to be aware and keep our children informed about. Thanks for writing.

    1. Thanks. Yes, to stop abuse, we must be informed about it. Then, we can go about protecting the children.

  3. Such a detailed and informative post but such a difficult subject!

    1. It is indeed a difficult and sensitive subject. Have a great day!

  4. That's a really great endeavor on your part. Of all the abuses, I feel emotional is the most difficult but again the other two lead to it. When people do wrong to children, it makes me really really angry.

    1. Thanks Saru. Emotional abuse is so difficult to detect, and leaves a scar for lifetime as do the others. Such cruelty makes me furious too.

  5. This has become such a critical issue in society today, sometimes hushed up.
    More awareness is required, well done by you for posting on this.

    1. Thanks Indrani. I agree, the problem is hushed up many times due to ill-conceived notions of social prestige. We need to acknowledge the issue and spread awareness before tackling it.

  6. Kudos to you Kiran fro the effort and the write up... its the most shameful and dehumanising aspect of a human mind which makes him/her abuse childhood .. you have handled the difficult subject with sensitivity ...

    1. Thanks Kokila. It is indeed the most shameful aspect of humanity when an innocent child is abused and hurt.

  7. How can anyone abuse a child?! First they must be treated for their illness, I think.

    Thank you Kiran for your effort... I knew little about this topic... You helped me know something today :) TC! Keep smiling :)

    1. I have always thought that too. No normal human being in his right mind can hurt a child. These people must have some psychological problems.
      Thanks Sindhu. TC. :)


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