Child Abuse: a Contemporary Issue

Introduction

The problem of child abuse gains more and more recognition nowadays because of the terrible crimes, neglect, and assaults that happen to abused children. Abused children are at risk of developing mental problems and trust issues. I chose this topic because I think this theme is still not addressed by the public as attentively as it should be. Children are perceived as humans with limited rights who depend on the behavior and actions of their parents. Children cannot resist their abusers due to their age and dependence on the parent. What is more, some of the children continue to trust and love their parents or mentors even if they are severely abused. I think that child abuse is a serious problem in the modern world; it is caused by many factors that will be discussed in this paper.

Influence of Abuse on Children

Scientists point out that there are different types of child abuse: sexual abuse, physical abuse, psychological abuse, and neglect (Stalker & McArthur, 2012). Sexual abuse can have an extremely negative influence on the child’s future life; it can lead to a post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, phobias, and low self-esteem (Jenny & Crawford-Jakubiak, 2013). They are more likely to develop a mental illness (or several mental illnesses), and they usually need to use more medical services when they become adults (Jenny & Crawford-Jakubiak, 2013). It is a very common problem; according to the research, 5 to 25% of adults in the USA experienced sexual abuse when they were children (Jenny & Crawford-Jakubiak, 2013). Because this problem remains to be neglected by the authorities and, sometimes, parents, children have to suffer the life of a victim who cannot find any escape from the situation.

Abused children find it difficult to tell adults about this problem for different reasons. First, they are afraid that adults will not believe them. Second, they are scared of their abuser, who might harm them even more if he/she finds out that the child wants to seek help. Third, children are afraid of the victimization and humiliation related to abuse (especially sexual abuse). Fourth, some of the children, especially younger ones (3-8 years old), do not understand whether they are abused, or it is normal behavior for an adult. The lacking awareness of child abuse among children and adults leads to severe crimes that destroy the lives of victims.

Child abuse can lead to not only mental illnesses, addiction, and lifestyle changes but also death. Fatal outcomes of child abuse are common and more widespread among parents or mentors with an abuse history (Sköld, 2013). Physical abuse has similarities all across the world: for example, participants from different countries stated that their abusers used fists and belts, and other weapons (Sköld, 2013). I would also like to point out that children from minority groups frequently face abuse. The intense research of child abuse began in the 1990s when the separation of Aboriginal children was discussed by the media in Australia and Canada (Sköld, 2013). In 2012, child abuse in religious-run institutions in Ireland was also recognized and researched. Thus, child abuse is not linked to one country or state, and it can be present in various institutions, including medical centers, churches, schools, etc. I can conclude that children are not protected from child abuse in any country or any organization. The awareness of abuse and abusive intentions needs to be raised in children and parents.

Abuse and Gender Differences

Research shows that victims of child abuse are at risk of becoming juvenile offenders later in life or being trapped in the “circle of violence.” Circle of violence happens to those people who experienced abuse when they were children and then became abusers themselves (Asscher, Van der Put, & Stams, 2015). Some of the victims also demonstrated antisocial behavior when they were adolescents, and the researchers supposed it was due to the past childhood abuse that happened to them (Asscher et al., 2015). Asscher et al. (2015) examined various types of abuse (sexual or physical abuse, neglect, and other forms of abuse) in female and male juvenile offenders. The authors stated: “all forms of abuse… were more often present in female than in male juvenile offenders” (Asscher et al., 2015, p. 221).

Moreover, male offenders committed sexually aggressive crimes more often than female offenders did. At the same time, female offenders committed minor crimes more frequently compared to male offenders (Asscher et al., 2015). Those individuals who experienced sexual abuse in childhood were more likely to be sexual offenders, and those who faced physical abuse were more likely to become violent offenders, Asscher et al. (2015) notice. Thus, there are gender differences among juvenile offenders, and experienced abuse can predict possible issues and difficulties male and female individuals will face later in their life.

Another important aspect that I would like to point out is that female victims of abuse were diagnosed with depression more often than male victims were; male victims chose violence as a coping strategy (Asscher et al., 2015). Therefore, male and female victims of child abuse cope with abuse differently, possibly because of their socialization.

As it can be seen, the problem of child abuse remains unresolved, but it is addressed more often. Freeman and Saunders (2014) point out that there is no universal cause of child abuse. Socio-economic difficulties, mental health problems, cultural beliefs, and traditions all contribute to child abuse. Society’s established belief that children have fewer rights than adults results in adults’ violent actions such as smacking, beating, and assaulting even. Some believe that it is parental right to smack children for misbehaving. However, this approach gives more rights to parents than to children, and children become “slaves” of parents: they cannot express their disagreement, they have to obey, and they have to be silent about the abuse. Freeman and Saunders (2014) suggest making any physical mistreatment of a child (including smacking) illegal. I believe it is a good suggestion because it will break the circle of violence that children have to endure repeatedly.

Conclusion

Child abuse is a common problem that is researched and addressed by scholars. It is difficult to resolve because there are various causes of abuse that include socioeconomic factors, mental illnesses, cultural values, etc. Those children who suffered from abuse are at risk of developing mental illnesses, becoming offenders, and treating their children in a similar violent way. Abuse often leads to severe antisocial behaviors, drinking, gambling, low self-esteem, and bullying. Abuse can also result in a circle of violence when former victims become violent toward their younger friends, children, or any other family members. It is reasonable to assume that child abuse can be slowed down if smacking and other forms of physical abuse become illegal.

References

Asscher, J. J., Van der Put, C. E., & Stams, G. J. J. (2015). Gender differences in the impact of abuse and neglect victimization on adolescent offending behavior. Journal of Family Violence, 30(2), 215-225.

Freeman, M., & Saunders, B. J. (2014). Can we conquer child abuse if we don’t outlaw physical chastisement of children? The International Journal of Children’s Rights, 22(4), 681-709.

Jenny, C., & Crawford-Jakubiak, J. E. (2013). The evaluation of children in the primary care setting when sexual abuse is suspected. Pediatrics, 132(2), 558-567.

Sköld, J. (2013). Historical abuse—a contemporary issue: Compiling inquiries into abuse and neglect of children in out-of-home care worldwide. Journal of Scandinavian Studies in Criminology and Crime Prevention, 14(1), 5-23.

Stalker, K., & McArthur, K. (2012). Child abuse, child protection and disabled children: A review of recent research. Child Abuse Review, 21(1), 24-40.