Fighting child abuse? Act wisely

MUSCAT: Ignoring at your own peril is a cliché but it is gross if one does that to an innocent child.

 Of course, it’s cruel, to say the least, but it happens here, there and everywhere. Even neglect is a form of violence. So treat the kids wisely for a better tomorrow. They will grow up physically and mentally strong so that they are ready to take the role as a full-bright citizen of the Sultanate.

 Physical, emotional and sexual are the main of the several forms of violence faced by our kids at the hands of strangers and familiar faces anywhere and anytime.

 And the impact includes anxiety, stress, depression disorders, self-harming, learning disorders, developmental delay, eating disorders and physical ailments.

 It is the right of all children to grow up in a safe, secure environment where children can challenge, solve, enjoy a game, be protective, be seen and heard and have fun which are essential for a growing up kid. 

Family is in the foremost of lines of safety and security for children, followed by schools, playgrounds, religious places and communities. 

 Reports say, at least 4 million cases of child abuse and neglect involving almost 7 million children happen evry passing year.

The highest rate of abuse is against babies less than one year of age, and 25% of victims are younger than age three.

 In the Sultanate of Oman, the guidelines for children are strong and healthy.

 Child Protection Committees (CPCs) have been formed in all 11 governorates to prevent child abuse and address if and when such a crime arises.

 Despite the laws and existence of CPCs, a sizable population of children have been suufer abuse in their own families, schools, communities. An alarming 1,507 cases of abuse were reported to the CPCs last year.

 Bullying and violence against the physically challenged are the forms of abuse. Post Covid-19, children and adolescents face cyber bullying while attending virtual and online classes.

The Sultanate has added mental health to its COVID-19 response and recovery. 

 Covid-19 has wrecked the mental health of adults, parents and children in many ways.

 Solution is handy

 UNICEF is closely working with the Sultanate to strengthen systems and services for vulnerable kids, by establishing a cross-sectoral case management system (CMS) for well-coordinated care covering integrated early childhood development (IECD), protection and the inclusion of vulnerable children. 

 The CMS will ensure that children are identified in schools and healthcare centres. 

The cases reported involve neglect, followed by physical and sexual abuse. Victims who are abused suffer a combination of physical abuse, sexual abuse, and/or neglect.

 Studies reveal that 1 in 20 children have been abused once in their life. It includes injuries due to hitting, kicking, shaking, burning or other shows of force. 

 Studies disclosed that one in five girls and one in 20 boys under-18 years of age faced sexual abuse that a child cannot understand or consent to and includes acts such as fondling, oral-genital contact and genital and anal intercourse. It also includes exhibitionism, voyeurism, and exposure to pornography. Another shocking revelation was that the victims knew their abuser.

 Neglecting is another fork of cruelty which includes failing to provide food, clothing, shelter while emotional neglect includes not showing love, comfort, or affection and medical or educational neglects or failure to supervise. 

 Children mostly face abuse within the family living in poverty and among parents who are teenagers or those who use drugs or alcohol.

 Recognise first and treat them

 Children are afraid to reveal because they think they will be blamed or no one will believe them. They keep quiet because the oppressor is someone they love very much, because of fear, or both.

 Parents have to tread here very cautiously. Be patient enough and never ignore signs and symptoms of abuse.

 Support the child as always and get treatment as soon as possible. Never allow the child to deal with the situation on their own. It is impossible for them to overcome, both physically and mentally.

 Look for physical signs and behavioural changes in children to know they have been abused or neglected. Check for bruises to the torso, ears, or neck, any injury that is not consistent to have happened, that cannot be adequately explained, or that is inconsistent with the child’s de­velopmental capabilities

 Sit with them and teach them about good touch and bad touch. Studies say that such info from parents alone can prevent 25% of abuse on the children.

 It would be better to seek sup­port groups through local community organizations as a first step to ease pressure of isolation or frustration. 

 If parents themselves are abused, they need to be treated.

 Personal supervision and involvement in your child’s activities are the best ways to prevent physical and sexual abuse outside the home. 

 Never frighten or threaten your child. Always ask them to keep a distance from strangers, not to wander away from you in unfamiliar territory, and to say “no” when someone asks them to do something they don’t want to do. 

 UNICEF is supporting the Sultanate’s Ministry of Education (MoE) in introducing a child-friendly education (CFE) introduced in 28 schools in five governorates: five schools in Muscat, 11 in Dhofar, six in Musandam, three in Al Batinah South and three in Al Dakhiliyah. 

 CFE schools promote a broader concept of quality, addressing the total needs of the child. These include health, nutrition, water and sanitation, safety and security, protection from violence and abuse, social engagement, and working for a better school environment to address such issues. 

 The CFE approach addresses the use of violence by teachers as a mode of discipline as well as bullying among students to provide safe and equitable learning spaces for all children. Following CFE principles, schools become an integral part of the protective environment. 

 The Sultanate is committed to ensuring that families know how to give their children, including the physically challenged, the very best start in life and can access high-quality services within their communities.

As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure, communication with your child is the best way to know if there is any abuse.

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