Just before I retired, I was told by the organization I worked for that it was obligatory to take a course in child protection. In spite of never having taught children it was deemed essential to be aware of the issues surrounding child protection. They were absolutely right.
In the USA and the UK, there are some shocking statistics which should help us to reflect on the issue of child abuse and how we can actually help. The main way we can do that is to become aware of what abuse is, what our responsibilities are and what we can do to stop it.
We are not just talking here about sexual abuse but all forms of abuse and violence against children which may be emotional, physical or mental. The statistics leave no room for complacency at all.
For example, in the UK, we know that:-
- about 50,000 children are at risk of abuse
- 1 in 20 children have experienced some form of sexual abuse
- mortality of children who die as a result of abuse is between 1 and 2 every week.
Discovering sexual abuse
At school, children may have more contact with teachers than with any other adults in their own family. That is why it is so important for teachers to be on the lookout for warning signs. Often, signs of emotional distress may be picked up by the teacher and this may raise a red flag as to why the child is not comfortable in the learning environment.
This is why the NSPCC (the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) has issued a training pack for all school staff who come into contact with children in their care. This is so important in spotting possible instances of neglect and cruelty that the child may be experiencing in the home environment.
Child abuse scandals.
In the UK there have been countless cases recently of where well known personalities in the entertainment world have been facing investigation and charged with child abuse dating back as far as thirty years or more.
This has raised questions about how bad the actual problem is and was brought to the public’s attention after the appalling revelations about Jimmy Saville who consistently abused boys and girls over a long period of time. Other cases soon followed and people were shocked.
The only positive thing about this is that children are now actually safer than before because there is simply more public awareness of what is happening. That is very positive.
In the USA
In the USA the Child Protection Services (CPS) are set up to take care of children and to ensure their safety and rights under a UN convention, the CROC (Convention of Rights of the Child). Every country in the world, according to this UN charter, should be implementing it but many are falling well short of even the minimum requirements and this is a tragedy.
There has been much criticism of the CPS in the US and often there is too little attention given to prevention.
In Texas, for example, the number of deaths of children in foster care oscillates between 30 -50 a year and this is alarming to say the least. Other criticism has centered on a state funding scam involving adoptions and foster parents.
The Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) believes that prevention should play a key role when counseling families.
The Crimes Against Children Research Centre of the University of New Hampshire has analysed some statistics taken from a paper entitled ‘ Violence, Crime and Abuse Exposure in a National Sample of Children and Youth’ just published on JAMA Pediatrics online. The study involved over 4,000 children who were interviewed in a national US telephone survey in 2011.
- about 40% of children were physically assaulted
- 1 in 10 children suffered an injury as a result of assault
- 2% suffered sexual abuse (the figure shot up to 10% for girls in the 14 -17 age range)
- 13.7% reported being maltreated by their caregivers
These figures are very similar to a survey in 2008 but there was a decline in the following areas , which is some comfort :-
- robbery and damage to personal belongings
- juvenile sibling attacks
- school bomb threats.
What can YOU do to help?
You need to be aware of and alert about possible cases of physical assault, neglect and sexual abuse. There may be unexplained bruises or burns. The child may react negatively when taken to the caregiver. It is always better to err than to do absolutely nothing.
If you are concerned, you should contact the child protection officer of the school or organization. If it is an emergency and you think the child is in immediate danger, then you should contact the police.
If you think that your own child has been abused, keep the child away from the predator (if you know their identity). Most predators are actually members of the close family circle.
You should involve your own doctor who is legally obliged to report such cases. If you wish to take your child to the hospital, the doctor who examines the child for signs of physical assault or abuse will have to report the matter to the authorities.
Robert Locke MBE is an award winning author and has written extensively on ADHD, child health problems and mental disorders. You can visit his page on ADHD natural treatment to find out more.