Many people recognise the beating of children as child abuse but other forms such as neglect and psychological abuse are mentioned and recognised less frequently. Child abuse is any form of abuse which is threatening to or violent for a child.
Unsafe situations for children often arise out of ignorance or powerlessness. Problems at home, for instance, can be so great that a parent is unable to cope with the care. Or adults do not know how to deal with problem situations in a different way. Help is then necessary, because child abuse doesn’t stop by itself.
Child abuse is any form of abuse which is threatening to or violent for a child. There are five types of child abuse:
- Physical abuse: hitting, kicking, biting, pinching, punching, burning, poisoning, suffocating, intentionally causing falls but also for instance shaking a baby violently.
- Physical neglect: failure to provide sufficient food, clothing, hygiene, medical or dental care but also: failure to provide adequate supervision.
- Psychological abuse: threaten or verbally abuse the child, belittle, humiliate, scare, burden the child with too much responsibility, set demands which they cannot meet, lock or tie the child up but also: making the child witness violence in the family.
- Psychological neglect: failure to give adequate attention, respect, affection, love and contact but also in times of normal school attendance: failure to ensure regular school attendance.
- Sexual abuse: penetration with fingers, objects or penis, sexual assault with or without genital contact but also: exposing the child to sex between adults, pornographic material, or making the child touch themselves while another person is watching.
Often different forms occur at the same time.
A safe home means that a child is safe at home, can grow up in a healthy environment and can develop properly. Sometimes this is not possible because the parent is unable to cope with the care, for instance when parents have (psychiatric) problems, debts, an addiction or complex relations with violent fights and if there are other stressors which can lead to child abuse.
Child abuse occurs everywhere. In urban areas, in rural areas (kunuku), in families with all kinds of different cultural backgrounds and in both poor and rich families. It can happen to anybody. However, in families where there are many problems (much stress), child abuse occurs more frequently than in families with few problems.
How do I know whether the situation in my family is unsafe or is becoming unsafe?
What are the signs which indicate an unsafe situation?
There are dozens of signs which could indicate an unsafe situation for children. The existence of one or several signs certainly not always necessarily means child abuse. The more signs there are, the more serious the situation could be.
Some behavioural signs which children can display are:
- Aggressive behaviour
- Withdrawal, depressed behaviour
- Concentration problems
- Sexually provocative behaviour
- Fear of (certain) adults
Some signs displayed by parents are:
- Strange explanation for physical injury
- Regular visits with the child to the general practitioner/hospital
- No interest in the child's achievements
- Burden the child with too much responsibility
Doing nothing is no option. It doesn’t stop by itself. Reach out! In order to put a stop to problem situations, help is essential. It can be offered through the various aid agencies, but also via the social network or on the victim's own initiative.
If sufficient tools are offered, many people are quite capable of reorganizing their lives and thus breaking the cycle of problems. A person who reaches out can sometimes be that little push that someone needs.
It is extremely important to make child abuse open for discussion. With the people themselves whom it concerns, or if it happens to yourself, with neighbours, friends, family or a teacher at school.... Or with the police, Victim Support (Bureau Slachtofferhulp), Centre for Youth and Family (Centrum voor Jeugd & Gezin), Neighbourhood Development (Wijk Ontwikkeling) or Youth Care.
It is often assumed that people do not want others to intervene but the opposite seems to be true: families with child abuse feel ashamed or fear the reactions or consequences. This is why they often keep the abuse hidden for a very long time, as a result of which it persists for an unduly long period of time.
For more information about domestic violence and child abuse, also check out the campaign: It doesn't stop by itself. Reach out!
The assistance which Youth Care offers always focuses on reducing the stress and risk factors in a family and on increasing the safety for children. For this purpose Youth Care for instance offers assistance aimed at support in child rearing or in dealing with the child's behaviour in another way. Youth Care can also call in the assistance of other agencies to offer help to deal with for instance addiction problems, psychiatric problems or aggression problems.
If the family members need to take some time out from each other, Youth Care will confer with the family how to organise this. If it concerns a seriously unsafe situation, Youth Care will make safety agreements and if necessary it will offer the parent and/or children a safe place.
Please contact us if required.