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Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment

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There is a misplaced perception among the masses that child abuse is only sexual in nature. But emotional neglect of the child’s needs and desires by parents or guardians also constitutes child abuse. Childhood is very fragile and emotionally sensitive in nature. It is during this tender age that a child’s perspective and sense of self-worth is formed. Thus, child abuse can have detrimentally and long-lasting effects on the overall health of a child. Child abuse is more prevalent in developing and underdeveloped countries than the developed ones. In the face of grim poverty and starvation, children often become the innocent victims of multiple forms of abuse. In some countries, instances of child abuse are also driven by local myths and traditions. For example, in South Africa, it is believed that sexual intercourse with a virgin would cure a man of HIV.The practice of child abuse has existed in some form or the other since time immemorial. It was a normal practice for early Greek and Roman civilizations to abandoned deformed or unwanted children, and to offer children as sacrifices to appease the gods. Similar practices were performed in Carthaginian, Roman, Greek, and Aztec societies. In Roman society, the father had absolute authority over his child’s life. Sexual abuse of children was also common, but it was never perceived as being illegal or even immoral. It was rather a traditionally accepted phenomenon. But as humankind has progressed as a civilization, attitudes regarding child abuse have drastically changed and rightly so. Child abuse is now recognized as a grotesque social crime, one that can leave ugly scars on a child’s life. Not only does it ruin the innocence of the child, but it also leads to psychological problems in adult life. Traditionally, child abuse has been categorized in the following ways- neglect, physical abuse, psychological/emotional abuse, and sexual abuse. Of the total reported cases of child abuse, neglect represented 54% of confirmed cases of child abuse, physical abuse 22%, sexual abuse 8%, emotional maltreatment 4%, and other forms of maltreatment 12% (National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse). Neglect can imply a situation where the parents fail to satisfy the basic needs of the child including physical, emotional and educational needs. Physical Abuse refers to any act of physical violence committed against a child. Psychological or emotional abuse denotes a pattern of behavior that impedes a child’s psychological growth and development. This includes perennial criticism of the child, rejection and all other activities which would adversely affect a child’s sense of self-worth. Sexual abuse, which has a rather hazy definition, involves any sexual act between an adult and a child. The more explicit form of sexual abuse occurs when a child is abused for the sexual gratification of an adult. The more subtle form of sexual abuse, though just as serious, is when an adult indecently exposes their genitalia to a child, asks or pressures a child to engage in sexual activities, displays pornography to a child, or uses a child to produce child pornography. (Martin et al, 383). Studies have revealed that nearly 15% to 25% of women and 5% to 15% of men were sexually abused when they were children. (Kevin et al, 391).