Children are vulnerable people in need of love and protection by their families and the community. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) has been committed to ensure such protection, as specifically stated in Article 2.2: “States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that the child is protected against all forms of discrimination or punishment on the basis of the status, activities, expressed opinions, or beliefs of the child’s parents, legal guardians, or family members.” (UNCRC, 1989).
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Being a signatory in the UNCRC, the UK is one country that upholds the rights of children to be protected. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) reports that approximately 50,500 children in the UK are at risk of child abuse. As of March 2012, there were 50,573 children included in child protection registers, broken down as follows: England: 42,850; Northern Ireland: 2,127; Scotland: 2,706; Wales: 2,890 (NSPCC, 2014).
The public document on “Working Together To Safeguard Children” (HM Government, 2006) defines important concepts in relation to child abuse. Children are maltreated when there is abuse and neglect involved. Radford et al (2011) conducted a study to determine the statistics of child maltreatment.
They found that one in four young adults (25.3%) and one in five children aged 11-17 years (18.6%) had been severely maltreated as children. 14.5% of young adults and 13.4% of children aged 11-17 of their interviewed subjects have suffered severe maltreatment by their own parents or guardians.
Inflicting harm or acts that do not prevent harm are considered acts of abuse or neglect. Such acts may fall in one or more of the following:
Physical Abuse: “involves hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning, suffocating, or otherwise causing physical harm to a child. Physical harm may also be caused when a parent or carer fabricates the symptoms of, or deliberately induces, illness in a child.” (HM Government, 2006, p.37). Radford et al. (2011) found in their study that one in nine young adults or 11.5% and one in fourteen children aged 11-17 or 6.9% have experienced severe physical violence as children by adults.
Emotional Abuse: the emotional maltreatment causing severe and adverse effects on the child’s psyche. Examples are making the child feel unloved or worthless through name-calling, imposition of tasks beyond the child’s developmental capability, prevention of the child’s social or educational interactions, bullying, and the like (HM, 2006).
Radford et al.’s study (2011) revealed that 6.9% of young adults and 6.8% of children aged 11.17 years have experienced emotional abuse. Many children and young adults have also been exposed to domestic violence between adults while they were growing up, causing the children emotional pain.
Sexual Abuse: is the malicious pressure on a child to be part of a sexual activity. This may include prostitution, rape, molestation or oral sex, looking at or being a participant in the production of pornographic materials, or encouraging children to behave in a manner that is sexually inappropriate (HM Government, 2006).
Radford et al.’s study (2011) revealed that one in twenty children (4.8%) reported they have experienced sexual abuse with physical contact and 90% of these children were abused by someone they knew. 34% of the children who experienced contact sexual abuse were forced by their perpetrators to keep it a secret so they did not reveal it to anyone. 82% of the children who experienced contact sexual abuse by another child kept it a secret.
Neglect: Children also have a right to be protected from neglect. This is the parent’s or guardian’s consistent failure to provide the child with basic physical and/or psychological needs which may result in adverse consequences for the child. Neglect is failure to provide a child with adequate food, clothing and shelter, protection from physical and emotional harm, access to proper medical care and adequate supervision.
Negligent parents or caregivers also fail to address the child’s emotional needs (HM Government, 2006). Neglect was identified by Radford et al. (2011) to be the most prevalent kind of maltreatment. 16% of young adults and 13.3% of children aged 11-17 years reported they had experienced neglect. Radford et al.’s study did not cover reports from children aged 10 and younger, and from the pattern provided by the participants of their study, this statistic is frighteningly left to speculation.
Anda et al. (2005) studied long term consequences of abuse and neglect on children. The victims are also likely to be perpetrators of abuse themselves, repeating the vicious cycle with their own children. Some victims may be in need of psychological therapy lest they suffer from severe depression and other neurotic illnesses or personality disorders. It is also possible for some child abuse victims to engage in delinquent activities such as prostitution, pornography, drug abuse, or crime.
As a solution to the persistent problem of child abuse, it is commendable that many agencies, private organizations and civilians have expressed their desire to join hands with the government in protecting, safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children. One important step is reporting child abuse so that it is investigated. Everyone should be vigilant in child protection so that child abuse perpetrators become discouraged to carry out their evil acts or are punished accordingly if they continue harming children.
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Anda, R. F., Felitti, V. J., Bremner, J. D. Walker, J. D., Whitfield, C., Perry, B. D.,
Dube, S. R. and. Giles, W. H. (2005). The enduring effects of abuse and related adverse experiences in childhood: A convergence of evidence from neurobiology and epidemiology. European Archives of Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience 256(3): 174–86.
HM Government (2006) Working Together to Safeguard Children: A guide to inter- agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. Every Child Matters Change for Children. London: TSO.
NSPCC (2014) Incidence and prevalence of child abuse and neglect. Web.
Radford, L., Corral, S., Bradley, C., Fisher, H., Bassett, C., Howat, N.and Collishaw, S. (2011) Child abuse and neglect in the UK today . London: NSPCC.
United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) (1989) Retrieved from http://www.cirp.org/library/ethics/UN-convention/