Child Abuse: The Silent Whisper

There are many issues affecting Jamaica, land we love, and the world at large. One of these issues is Child Abuse or as I sometimes call it the silent whisper. I gave it this name as some of us see it, most of us hear about it, all of us whisper about it and most times we remain silent. According to The Office of the Children Registry, child abuse is defined as “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.” It also father states that “any act, or failure to act, which presents an imminent risk of serious harm to a child also counts as child abuse.” Can you list the different types of child abuse? They are as follows: Physical (beating, choking, kicking, punching, harmful restraints, use of weapons or instruments), Emotional (negative criticisms, insults, any form of belittlement), Sexual (fondling of genital area, oral sex, vaginal or any penetration by a finger, penis or object, sexually suggestive behavior towards a child, child ponographic production), Neglect (failure to care for a child’s basic needs, abandonment, exposing child to danger, disregard for child supervision) and Child Labour (employing or engaging children in work that is likely to interfere or is hazardous to the child’s education, health, physical, mental and social development).

This silent whisper is deadly and is a result of many factors. Some of these factors include, but are not limited to, depression, mental health problems, economic hardship, lack of parenting knowledge, substance abuse, emotional problems and difficulty in relationships. I have shared what child abuse is and what causes child abuse, but do we know how to reduce or prevent it? Here are Sharla’s Thoughts.

My first suggestion is to talk. Parents need to have open conversations with their children about child abuse and encourage their children to speak out if they or anyone they know is being abused. Parents should also engage in regular conversations with their children and make themselves approachable. This will allow them to know what is happening in their children’s lives and their children in turn will feel encouraged to share more with their parents.

As a society we need to examine our behavior. This is my second suggestion, as self assessment can lead us to identify areas we need to improve on or change. We can then become more nurturing and caring towards our children. We will also be more inclined to lend a helping hand to those who have been or are being abused.

Another suggestion is to educate ourselves. Educating ourselves, others and our children are one of the best way to prevent child abuse. This can be done by organizing and attending parenting classes, teaching our children their rights and learning about the different mental health problems that can lead to child abuse. We can also become a voice in our community and speak out against child abuse.

My final suggestion is to report the abuse. If we are to stop the vicious cycle of abuse, we can no longer silently whisper, we must report it. If we witness child abuse, hears about child abuse and have evidence of child abuse, we must report it. It is our duty as citizens to protect our children. They are, after all, the future of our country.

Let’s try a small experiment. Close your eyes and imagine how you would feel if you were abused. You would feel angry, afraid, sad, confused, worthless. Keep your eyes closed and imagine that you were a child, someone touched you on your genital area without your consent, someone forcefully restrained you, someone deprived you of food, someone continually beats you and no one does anything to help you. Now open your eyes. How did you feel? Helpless? Hopeless? Angry? Confused? Disgusted? Hurt? Scared? This is what every child who is abused has experienced. Let’s play our part in ridding Jamaica and the world of this monster. These are just a few of my thoughts, tell me what you think.

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