Child abuse is any action by another person; adult or child – that causes significant harm to a child. It can be physical, sexual or emotional, but can just as often be about a lack of love, care and attention. We know that neglect, whatever form it takes, can be just as damaging to a child as physical abuse. An abused child will often experience more than one type of abuse, as well as other difficulties in their lives. It often happens over a period of time, rather than being a one-off event. And it can increasingly happen online.

Countries in which child abuse has a long history such as the US have already come out with many solutions. In Lebanon, however, child abuse has only lately been recognized as a major problem. Consequently, little collective or organized action has been done in order to protect the rights of the child. The first step required to prevent child abuse is to activate legal intervention. In Lebanon, the law does not intervene in family problems such as child abuse. What we need is a decisive set of laws which protect the rights of the child inside the family, and against the possible aggression of the parents or elderly brothers. Moreover, the law must be decisive about the rights of the child at home. Abusive parents must be punished, even to the extent of depriving them the right to custody of the child if they are incapable of raising their children in the proper manner.

Finally, one of the most important steps needed to prevent child abuse is to educate parents. This education must take place in two phases. In the first phase, awareness programs targeted at parents in the media and in social agencies should educate parents on the concepts of child abuse, its causes, consequences and ways of dealing with it. However, the second phase which is more radical and consequently more influential is to start education on child abuse in school programs, especially for those who will become parents in the future. In other words, notions of child abuse must be included in the national education programs.

One of the major problems which faces societies in our days is child abuse and neglect. This problem has always existed, but it is now that scientists are beginning to discover the disastrous results that it leads to. Neglect and abuse are the same, expect in one major difference. While the damage is not intended in the cases of neglect, it is intended in the cases of abuse. By definition, neglect is the absence of adequate social, emotional and physical care. Abuse on the other hand is defined as the non-accidental physical attack on or injury to children by individuals caring for them. The majority of the cases of abuse are those of emotional abuse. However, cases of physical abuse are also serious with 20,000 cases recorded annually in the US as cases of physical abuse. Physical abuse involves hitting the child in such a way as to hurt him. At the same time, more than 113,000 cases are reported annually in the US as sexual abuse cases. Sexual abuse is defined as the forced, tricked, or coerced sexual behavior between a child and an older person. Sexual abuse is considered to be the worst kind of child abuse, and is usually the least reported, mainly because it takes place inside the family.

The second step for intervention is to provide for a hotline for reporting. When abused children become aware that there is a hotline to receive their complaints seriously, they will take the initiative and report to protect themselves. If no such line exists, children will be abused in silence, and all the laws to prevent child abuse will not have any value. The hotline should not only be used by abused children, but also by teachers, neighbors and every member of the society who thinks that a child next door or in the community is being abused by an adult. After all, children are minor citizens who are unable to protect themselves against the aggression of adults. Public awareness is also very important to prevent the problem of child abuse. People who think that it is none of their business to report on abusive neighbors are in fact participating in making the problem worse. It is their obligation in fact to report, because a violation of human rights is taking place. Public awareness is not an easy thing to attain. The only way to do so is to establish specialized agencies for the protection of child rights, and to educate the public about their obligations towards these agencies and the children of the community.

 

by:  Ammara Siddique

 

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