Child abuse. What is it? It is defined as any action done by a person, be it adult or child, that brings harm towards the child. There are many forms of child abuse, mainly physical, emotional and sexual. However, lack of attention, care and love, otherwise categorized as neglect is also a form of child abuse. It can also happen to children of all ages, from infant to teens. It can also happen anywhere. At home, online, in schools, playgrounds and many more.
Though it is increasingly being reported in the news, child abuse is still not talked about enough in Malaysia. Public awareness on what constitute towards child abuse is low as well. Not only that, there is a lot of public stigma towards child abuse as well, as people do not want to get a lawsuit by wrongly reporting a child abuse case. With this article, it’s time to break down some of those walls and educate the masses.
So what exactly constitutes as child abuse? There are a few categories of child abuse, which are physical abuse, domestic abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, online abuse, emotional abuse, child sexual exploitation, female genital mutilation, child trafficking, grooming, bullying and cyberbullying, and harmful sexual behaviour.
In the world we live in now, it is becoming increasingly easy for abusers or pedophiles to come in contact with children through the cyberworld. As a parent, it has also become increasingly difficult to keep your little one safe from these attacks. Not only that, often times, it is also difficult to identify if your little one is being abused as the child does not even know that they are being abused. This could be due to grooming from the abuser, or that they just do not know any better.
In Asian countries, certain things are not as black and white as in Western countries. It is especially apparent in schools, especially Chinese schools, where caning and other forms of punishments are doled out to discipline the children. Though in Western countries, this would immediately constitute as child abuse, it is not as straight forward in Asia due to a difference in culture. In Asia, it is thought to build character and discipline in the child. However, there is the beginnings of debates about whether it should continue, especially in Malaysia.
Besides that, in certain Muslim countries, it is still acceptable to force children in marriages with adults. These child marriages, though largely frowned upon and are less common now, do still happen. Most countries would categorize this undoubtedly under child abuse, there is also that cultural barrier that makes the line less substantial to others.
So what about in Malaysia? Are our children protected from abuse? These issues that parents all over are starting to worry more about, especially with all the cases that have been reported recently on the news, like the children that were murdered and raped a few years back, and more recently Huckle, who had groomed up to an estimated of 200 children in Malaysia alone to sexually abuse them. Just a few days ago, a father was just sentenced to jail for sexually abusing his child. Besides that, it is also common for parents to insult and dismiss their child, which is also a form of abuse, unbeknownst to most parents, and can have a lasting effect on your child.
Well, there are definitely laws put in place for the well being of children, but in terms of things like sexual abuse and even child murder, there are no specific laws targeted to protect child victims. However in terms of murder, the murderer receives the harshest penalty of death. Not only that, the prosecution rate of abusers are shockingly low, with majority of them walking away scott free. In addition to that, many abuse cases go unreported as the abusers are normally the bread-winners of the family. Besides that, Malaysians, especially those who live in the cities, have become more secluded and self-centered, choosing to care less about others and to not get involved. All these factors help child abusers get away with it easier here in Malaysia.
Child abuse is a serious problem as it has detrimental effects towards the child, especially mentally and emotionally. Not only that, these effects can be long term, even after the abuse has stopped. For some, it might even affect them for life. In many cases, due to the child’s negative experiences during their formative years, they tend to end up in unfavorable situations later on in life, like drug abuse, or even perpetuating the cycle of violence by abusing their own children, if not given the help needed to heal and recover. Some even end up committing suicide due to the emotional and mental damage caused.
So what can we do about it? How can we identify the signs of abuse in our precious children to stop this? Well, the best solution for any problem is prevention. Teach your children to be wary of any strangers. Teach your little one the differences between good touch and bad touch. The most important, is to make sure that your child is not afraid to approach you about anything. That way, it can make it easier for them to approach you if they feel like something is not right. Always listen to your child! They might be trying to tell you something but do not know how to. Also educate your child about treating others kindly and to not bully. Make sure they know to tell an adult when bullying is occurring.
In the event of abuse happening, here are some signs to help identify it. Do bear in mind that in terms of grooming, some of these symptoms might not appear. In general, children who have been abused do not have a close relationship with their parents. They also lack social skills and are more withdrawn and private. They can also react violently with others and are reluctant to allow friends to visit their home. They might also develop slower than other kids with no apparent reason, and might be reluctant to change for sports and so on. Teenagers might also lean towards early age alcohol consumption to cope.
These are some of the basic symptoms that a child might showcase when facing abuse. For all parents out there, pay attention to your child and their friends, notice if there are any changes or if your child tells you a story that sounds strange. Who knows? You might be able to save a child’s life. We as a community need to stay vigilant in order to prevent and stop child abuse happening in Malaysia.
If you suspect that a child is being abused, or would like to report an abuse case, you can contact the police, or call the child abuse hotline 15999. Remember, we need to work together to protect the children and give them the life that they deserve.
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