WHAT IS CHILD ABUSE?
Child abuse is any act, or failure to act, on the part of a parent or caretaker, which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse, or exploitation of a child. Any act, or failure to act, which presents an imminent risk of serious harm to a child also counts as child abuse.
Abuses against children include physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and neglect.
Physical abuse is any act or failure to act that leads to the non-accidental, physical harm of a child or that places the child's physical well-being at risk. It includes, but is not limited to, beating, burning, choking, kicking, punching, harmful restraint and the use of a weapon or instrument.
Signs of physical abuse include:
- Unexplained bruises in various stages of healing or unexplained fractures, abrasions or other injuries
- Nervous, hyperactive, aggressive, disruptive, and destructive behaviours
- Undue fear of a parent or caretaker
- Unusual wariness of physical contact
Emotional abuse is the expression of words, attitudes or behaviours toward a child that create serious emotional or psychological damage. It includes exposing children to activities or experiences through which they may be harmed emotionally such as negative criticisms, insults and any other form of belittlement.
Signs of emotional abuse include:
- Delayed physical or emotional development,
- Speech disorders
- Very low self-esteem
- Antisocial or destructive behaviour
- Depression and/or suicidal thoughts or attempts
- Delinquent behaviour, especially in adolescents
Sexual abuse is engaging or enticing a child to engage in any form of sexual activity, with or without the child's knowledge or approval. It includes fondling of the genital area, oral sex, vaginal or anal penetration by a finger, penis or other object. Exhibitionism (display of private areas), allowing children to look at or be a part of the production of pornographic material and sexually suggestive behaviours toward a child also classify as sexual abuse.
Signs of sexual abuse against children include:
- A child's detailed and sophisticated understanding of sexual behaviours
- A child's engagement in sexual activity not appropriate for the child's age
- Sleep disturbances/nightmares
Neglect is any serious disregard for a child's supervision, care, or discipline. It includes the failure of a caregiver to provide for a child's basic needs, abandonment and exposing a child to danger.
Examples of Neglect
Neglect can be physical, educational, or psychological/emotional.
Physical neglect includes not providing adequate food or clothing, appropriate medical care, supervision, or proper weather protection (heat or cold). It also include abandonment.
Educational neglect includes failure to provide appropriate schooling or special educational needs, allowing excessive truancies; or failure to register or enrol the child into school
An actual failure by a person legally responsible to supply adequate food, clothing or shelter; although financially able to do so or offered financial or other reasonable means to do so, is a form of child maltreatment.
Signs of neglect include:
Abandonment by a parent or caregiver
Unattended medical needs
Consistent lack of supervision
Consistent hunger, inappropriate dress, poor hygiene, swollen stomach, pale or listless appearance
Frequent absence from school, begging or stealing
According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), the term ‘child labour’ is used to describe “work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development”. Sections 33 and 34 of the CCPA stipulate that no child under thirteen should be employed to work. However it states that children 13 -15 years old may be employed to do work that is appropriate for their age, as long as it does not negatively affect their well-being nor interfere with school attendance. In any event, the Minister of Labour dictates the type of work appropriate to the child at any age as well as the number of hours during and the conditions under which a child may be employed.
Examples of Child Labour
- Employing children in night club or bar;
- Involving a child in indecent and immoral activities, such as exotic dancing and pornography; and knowingly rent or allow the use of one’s property for these activities.
- Employing a child to do work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual or social development.
- Employing a child in any form of night work or industrial undertaking.
NB: The signs and symptoms of child labour are similar to those of child trafficking mentioned above.
Child in Need of Care and Protection
Under Section 8 of the CCPA, the child who is in need of care and protection would be the child who:
- Has no parent or guardian, or has a parent or guardian who is either unfit to exercise or is not exercising proper care and guardianship
- Is falling into bad associations or beyond control
- Is exposed to moral danger (i.e. the child is destitute, wandering without any settled place of abode and without any visible means of subsistence, begging or receiving alms or loitering for that purpose)
- Is being cared for in circumstances in which the child’s physical or mental health or emotional state is being seriously impaired or there is a substantial risk that it will be seriously impaired.
- An offence* was committed or was attempted to be committed against that child.
- Is a member of the same household as a child against which an offence* was committed, or attempted to be committed; or is a member of the same household as a person who has been convicted of an offence* against a child
Children who Exhibit Behavioural Problems
Children who are uncontrollable and who consistently get involved in various types of questionable activities may be classified as children who exhibit behavioural problems.
Examples of Behavioural Problems
These may include, but are not limited to:
- Truancy - refers to a child’s absence from school that is not excused by parent/guardian or the school.
- Abscond - refers to a child who runs away from a child care facility.
- Substance abuse - refers to the excessive use of substance, including the sniffing of solvents as well as the abuse of alcohol. It also includes the abuse of cigarettes and marijuana.
Signs of Behavioural Problems
Substance Abuse in Children
Physical-the child may display any of the following:
- repeated health complaints
- red and glazed eyes
- lasting coughfatigue
Emotional- the child may display any of the following:
- personality change
- sudden mood changes
- irresponsible behaviour
- low self-esteem
- poor judgment
- general lack of interest
Family- the child may display any of the following:
- starting arguments
- negative attitude
- breaking rules
- withdrawing from family
School- the child may display any of the following:
- decreased interest
- negative attitude
- drop in grades
- many absences
- discipline problems
Social problems- the child may display any of the following:
- friends who make poor decisions and are not interested in school or family activities
- problems with the law
Child Trafficking/Child Selling
According to UNICEF’s Child Protection Information Sheet, a ‘child victim of trafficking’ is defined as “any person under 18 who is recruited, transported, transferred, harboured or received for the purpose of exploitation, either within or outside a country”. Children who are trafficked are oftentimes forcibly used for prostitution, illegal adoptions, to provide cheap or unpaid labour, to work as household helpers or beggars and are recruited into armed groups. They are more likely to be exposed to violence, sexual abuse and HIV infection among other atrocities and less likely to grow up in a family environment and have access to basic human rights such as healthcare and education.
Examples of Child Trafficking/Child Selling
Examples of purposes for which children may be trafficked or sold include, but are not limited to:
- sexual exploitation;
- illegal transfer or non-return of children aboard;
- international adoptions that involve improper financial gains;
- involvement in drug trafficking
Signs of Child Trafficking/Child Selling
- evidence of abuse (physical, sexual, emotional)
- employer withholding identity and/or travel documents
- working unusually long hours
- unpaid or receives very little pay
- not in school or has significant gaps in schooling
- living at workplace with employer
- living with multiple people in a cramped place
- heightened sense of general fear (for self and family)
- distrust of police
- inability to speak to the child alone
- engaged in prostitution or induced to perform a commercial sex act