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Be the Change: A step against child abuse!

08 Apr 2015

Child abuse comes up as a very pertinent problem today. It runs across class, culture and religious boundaries. It is rampant everywhere and is indiscriminate in its nature. One often thinks of sexual abuse when the term abuse is used. But the word abuse contains in itself various forms of abuse, namely, physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and neglect.


In a 2007 study by Indian Government, nearly 12500 children (53%) were found to be victims of sexual abuse while 69% were victims of physical abuse. India is among the top 5 countries to have the highest rate of Child Sexual Abuse (CSA), as reported by International Business Times UK (2014). A 2013 report on Child Sexual Assault in Juvenile Justice Homes reported a startling rate of more than 48000 child rape cases recorded from 2001 to 2011. It also stated that India saw an increase of 336% of child rape cases from 2001 to 2011.

Child abuse is seen to have a devastating impact on the child’s physical and psychological well being. It has also been linked to long term adverse effects and social problems in children.

Looking at these highly staggering prevalence rates of child abuse and the daunting challenges it presents, one needs to take steps to prevent it. Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) was implemented in 2009 by Indian government which aimed at reducing the risks and vulnerabilities that children faced leading to abuse. Its objectives included strengthening the child protection at family and community level, creating database and knowledge base for child protection services and raising public awareness about child rights, vulnerability and child protection services. It developed a district, state, regional and national level service delivery structure.

However, as they say, prevention is better than cure. One needs to look at the various prevention methods to prevent child abuse in the first place. Primary prevention involves raising awareness among the masses while secondary prevention targets populations with risk factors for child abuse. Tertiary prevention targets families where child abuse has already taken place and to reduce the impact and prevent it from reoccurring.



Primary Prevention involves-

  • Raising awareness of the unacceptability of child abuse and promoting the notion that preventing child abuse is everyone’s responsibility.
  • Increasing parents’ and caregivers’ awareness of knowledge of preventive measures.
  • Powerful public education message should be given out
  • Teaching adults how to protect their children
  • Training teachers and school staff to teach children about personal safety including inappropriate touching, internet safety and bullying.
  • Parent education programs and support groups that focus on child development and age-appropriate expectations and the roles and responsibilities of parenting
  • Family support and family strengthening programs that enhance the ability of families to access existing services, resources and support interactions among family members
  • Public awareness campaigns that provide information on how and where to report suspected child abuse and neglect.

The very first step of prevention starts from home.

       If you’re a parent–

You should understand why your child may be afraid to tell you about the abuse.

  • The abuser has either shamed the child by involving his responsibility into the act or told him/her his parents will be angry.
  • The abuser may have manipulated the child into believing what he/she’s doing is right or that it’s a game.
  • The abuser might have threatened to harm the child or a family member if he/she reports.
  • The child may be afraid of disappointing the parents or disrupting the family (if it’s a family member who’s the abuser).
  • Some children are too young to understand.
  • The child may love the abuser and may not want anyone to get in trouble or for the relationship to end. He/she may just want the abuse to stop.


     What should you as a parent do-?

  1. Don’t expect your child to protect him/herself or be able to tell you when being abused
  2. Communicate: listen, believe and trust what your child tells you
  3. Educate:
  • Teach your child healthy values about sexuality.
  • Let him/her know about appropriate and inappropriate touching.
  • Define for the child what body parts are private.
  • Teach the child who to go to when feelings unsafe or confused.
  • Teach him/her assertiveness skills.
  • Reinforce to the child that it is never his/her fault if he/she receives an unsafe touch; the blame always rests with the adult.
  • Instill confidence in the child that if something that happen to him/her, you will be understanding and supportive.

Watch for any symptoms of abuse

  • Be aware of your child’s friends and the homes where he/she plays
  • Be wary of older children or adults who spend a lot of time alone with your child
  • Have safety talk” with your child several times a year. Make him/her aware of risk of encountering sexually explicit materials and adult offenders in the community and on the internet

        Watch out for signs your child is being abused

  • Warning signs of emotional abuse
  • Withdrawn, fearful, anxious
  • Extreme behavior (extreme passive or aggressive)
  • Inappropriate acting as either an adult (taking care of other children) or infantile (rocking, thumb sucking, throwing tantrums)
  • School problems – difficulties with peers, excessive crying, clinginess, aggressiveness or secretiveness

Warning signs of physical abuse

  • Unexplained bruises or frequent injuries
  • Always watchful or alert
  • Patterned injury marks (example – hand, belt)
  • Shies away from touch, flinches at sudden movements
  • Wearing inappropriate clothes to cover up injuries, example full sleeve shirt in hot weather

             Warning signs of neglect

  • Bad hygiene (unwashed hair, body odour)
  • Untreated illness and injuries
  • Frequently unsupervised or left alone
  • Often late to or misses school
  • Ill fitting, weather inappropriate clothes

              Warning signs of sexual abuse

  • Sexual knowledge inappropriate to age
  • Trouble walking or sitting
  • Unexplained fears, refusal to go to certain places or be with certain people
  • Doesn’t want to change clothes in front of others
  • Escape behaviors – running away, drug/alcohol use, becoming isolated
  • Physical symptoms (genital pain, itching, discharge, bleeding), stomach ache, head ache, sleep disturbances, bed wetting)

         Are you at risk for abusing your child? Evaluate yourself

  • You can’t stop the anger. You are unable to stop yourself from hitting your child when angry. Shouting at him/her without restraint or shaking or throwing him/her are also forms of physical abuse.
  • You feel emotionally disconnected from your child. Do you spend time with him/her or prefer that he/she remains quiet and away from you?
  • Are you able to meet his/her daily needs?
  • Has anyone expressed concerns about your child rearing?

How not to be a child abuser?

If you find yourself nodding to any of the questions above, you need to take steps to rectify it.

  • Learn what age appropriate is. Once you know what is realistically to be expected of your child, you might calm down and not feel as angry as you previously did.
  • Develop new parenting skills. Learn appropriate discipline techniques instead of hitting the child. Set clear boundaries for the child. Take parenting classes, attend seminars and take tips from other parents.
  • Take care of yourself. Not getting enough rest or support might push you towards frustration and extreme reactions towards your child. Make sure you are sleeping properly, taking time out for yourself and relaxing.
  • Get professional help. If need be, take sessions to overcome your troubles and be a better parent.


Secondary prevention involves a high-risk focus being offered to populations that may have one or more risk factors associated with child maltreatment, such as poverty, parental substance abuse, young parental age, parental mental health concerns, and parental or child disabilities.

These programs direct their services to communities or neighborhoods that are at-risk for child abuse. These include-

  1. Parent education programs located in schools
  2. Parent support groups that help parents deal with their everyday stresses and meet the challenges and responsibilities of parenting
  3.  Respite care for families that have children with special needs
  4. Family resource centers that offer information and referral services to families living in low-income neighborhoods.


Tertiary prevention activities focus on families where maltreatment has already occurred (indicated) and seek to reduce the negative consequences of the maltreatment and to prevent its recurrence. These prevention programs may include services such as:

  1. Parent support groups that help parents transform negative practices and beliefs into positive parenting behaviors and attitudes
  2. Mental health services for children and families affected by maltreatment to improve family communication and functioning


  What if you come across a child being abused?

The first thoughts that come to one’s mind when seeing a child being abused are-

  1. I shouldn’t interfere in someone else’s family. Effects of child abuse are long-lasting, affecting the child’s future relationships, self-esteem and mental health. Help break this cycle of child abuse.
  2. I might end up breaking someone’s home. Your intervening will help protect a child from abuse. There are parenting classes and psychotherapy to help get the family back on track.
  3. I might be in danger if I report. Reporting is anonymous. Call the helpline and report. The abuser will never get your information.
  4. What I say won’t make any difference. It would, it certainly would. The child might be saved from abuse because of your intervening in the situation.


 How to help an abused child?

  1. Remain calm and avoid denial.
  2. Do not interrogate. Let the child explain to you in his/her own words. Do not ask leading questions.
  3. Reassure the child that he/she did nothing wrong.
  4. Ensure the child’s and your safety. Involve professionals if need be.


Child abuse is malice in the society today and needs to get rid of. Your one step today will ensure hundreds of child abuse instances being prevented in the future. Take a step against child abuse. Be the change!

Tags:  #child #protection #sexual #abuse #prevent #change