Every parent harbours immense love for the baby and wishes to keep her safe from any illness or untowardly incidence. However, there are certain incidents which may go unnoticed at times that may have a serious impact on your baby.
Child abuse is one such incidence that is unfortunately encountered by some babies. The condition is more severe when one of the close ones of the baby is responsible for it. This may occur due to a lot of stress, mental illnesses or traumas, or any sort of psychological problems in the responsible person.
What is child abuse?
Child abuse is the physical, sexual, emotional mistreatment, or neglect of babies. Child abuse is a state of emotional, physical, economic and sexual maltreatment meted out to a baby. This is a globally prevalent phenomenon. Child abuse has serious physical and psycho-social consequences which adversely affect the health and overall well-being of a child.
How is child abuse categorized?
Child abuse can occur at home, or in the organizations such as schools or in community the baby interacts with. According to WHO, child abuse has been categorized into four major types: neglect, physical abuse, psychological/emotional abuse, and sexual abuse.
Physical Abuse: Physical abuse is the inflicting of physical injury upon a baby. This may include burning, hitting, punching, shaking, kicking, beating or otherwise harming a baby. The parent or caretaker may not have intended to hurt the baby. It may, however, be the result of over-discipline or physical punishment that is inappropriate to the baby’s age.
Sexual Abuse: Sexual abuse is inappropriate sexual behaviour with a baby. It includes man-handling of a baby’s private parts or deliberately making the baby perform actions unwillingly on an adult. If a stranger commits these acts, it is considered sexual assault and handled solely by the police and criminal courts.
Emotional Abuse: Emotional abuse can come as verbal abuse, mental abuse, and psychological maltreatment. It includes acts or failures to act by parents or caretakers that have caused or may cause serious behavioural, cognitive, emotional, or mental trauma. This can include parents/caretakers using extreme and/or bizarre forms of punishment, such as confinement in a closet or dark room or being tied to a chair for long periods of time or threatening or terrorizing a child. Less severe acts, but no less damaging, are belittling or rejecting treatment, using derogatory terms to describe the baby, habitual tendency to blame the baby or make her a scapegoat.
Neglect: It is the failure to provide for the baby’s basic needs. Neglect can be physical, educational or emotional. Physical neglect can include not providing adequate food or clothing, appropriate medical care, supervision or proper weather protection during summers or winters. It may also include abandonment. Educational neglect includes failure to provide appropriate schooling or special educational needs, allowing excessive absence. Psychological neglect includes the lack of any emotional support and love, never attending to the baby, substance abuse including allowing the baby to participate in drug and alcohol use.
All these forms of abuse have marked stunting effects in the babies and they may inflict irreparable injuries to the baby.
How to recognize child abuse?
The earlier child abuse is detected, the better are chances of recovery and appropriate treatment. Child abuse is not always obvious. By learning some of the common warning signs of child abuse and neglect, you can catch the problem as early as possible and get both the baby and the abuser the help that they need.
Investigate: Of course, just because you may see a sign doesn’t automatically mean the baby is being abused. The presence of a single sign does not prove child abuse is occurring in a family. But a closer look at the situation may be warranted when these signs appear repeatedly or in combination. It’s important to dig deeper, looking for a pattern of abusive behavior and warning signs, if you notice something off.
What are the warning signs of emotional abuse?
You can gauge the occurrence of an emotional abuse in your baby if she:
- Is excessively withdrawn, fearful or anxious about doing something wrong
- Shows extremes in behaviour like extremely compliant, extremely demanding, extremely passive or extremely aggressive
- Doesn’t seem to be attached to the parent or caregiver
- inappropriately infantile (rocking, thumb-sucking, tantrums)
What are the warning signs of physical abuse?
You can conclude that physical abuse has occurred in your baby if she:
- Has frequent injuries or unexplained bruises, welts, or cuts
- Is always watchful and “on alert,” as if waiting for something bad to happen
- Displays injuries that appear to have a pattern such as marks from a hand or belt
- Shies away from touch, flinches at sudden movements, or seems afraid to go home
What are the warning signs of neglect?
It may be a case of neglect if she:
- Is wearing clothes that are ill-fitting, filthy, or inappropriate for the weather
- Maintains hygiene that is consistently bad (unbathed, matted and unwashed hair, noticeable body odor)
- Undergoes untreated illnesses and physical injuries
- Is frequently unsupervised or left alone or allowed to play in unsafe situations and environments
What can you do to prevent and help?
Child abuse can largely be prevented by being vigilant , by trusting yours and your baby’s instincts and behaviour. If you are undergoing a lot of stress, finding out solutions and looking for effective measures is the best way out.
Be careful with her accomplice: Do not let your baby to be handled by any person you do not know or you do not trust. Always be very careful with the company you leave your baby with.
Background check of the helper is compulsory: One very important measure is to get a thorough check of any of the helpers you hire at home. Psychological and physical examination are very helpful in understanding the state of mind of a person and effective measures can be taken to prevent the baby’s contact from any such person.
Take immediate action: If you seem to grow suspicious of any person even slightly, withdraw your baby’s contact with that person immediately, however attached your baby may be with the concerned person.
Trust your baby: Get your bond with your baby stronger and always listen to what she has to say. Do not wash away any such hints by the baby regarding child abuse. Be vigilant of your baby’s behaviour for any sort of social or psychological withdrawals. Keep your conversation with your baby open and let her have her independence while she speaks.
Ask for help: Always take stringent measures against any such hints and take the help of support groups or the administration for safeguarding your baby’s rights.
What are the laws in India against such occurrences?
There are many laws in