The culture of silence surrounding abuse has really affected children negatively; it has become a public health issue. It seems that every other day stories are on the news about children who are stripped of a chance to lead normal lives. Regardless of the type of abuse —the air needs to be cleared.
The most common forms of maltreatment that a child experiences are: physical, sexual, emotional and neglect. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 7 children experienced child abuse or neglect last year. The perpetrators are usually someone the child knows. Parents, family, close friends are teachers are usually the most likely to perform these acts.
Children who are abused are already at a disadvantage when it comes to getting help because they are so vulnerable. If it happens by a person who is trusted, the child is more likely to be coerced into silence by fear. In some cases when children do come forward they are not believed or the people involved are so close to the perpetrator they try to protect them. When parents do come forward, time is of the essence.
Either way, the effects of abuse last a lifetime. It’s said that people who experience abuse are more likely to abuse others than people who haven’t experienced abuse. Some do continue the cycle of abuse but many do not. The trauma of the events often fuel protectiveness over children and an unwillingness to let the cycle continue.
The negative effects also include serious implications in mental health, physical health and social conditions. Impaired health, substance abuse, delayed brain development and lower educational attainment are just some ways the trajectory of the child’s life can be deterred.
While the circumstances surrounding abuse are different, taking action to prevent and help children in need are the same. Talking to children about feeling safe enough to report indecency to parents or other authority figures is important. Transparency between the family and the child can extinguish abuse in its early stages. If the abuse is happening in the home, it’s important to recognize the signs and report accordingly. As the adage goes: if you see something, say something.
Recognizing abuse as a public health issue is the first step to creating a generation of healthy children. Change the way you deal with abuse in your personal life and the people around you; it can potential save a child from dealing with the devastating outcomes of trauma.