How can you practically empower yourself, or the women and children you know, during this year’s 16 days of Activism? The Mail & Guardian‘s “HOW TO” guide will tackle a different area each day, including suing for maintenance, applying for a social grant and getting an interdict against an abusive partner.
We’ve all heard the sounds of a child screaming. But what do you do if you seriously suspected that your neighbour or relative’s child was being abused — or your child’s friend for that matter?
Child abuse is the mistreatment of a child by a person and can be physical, emotional, sexual or neglect — the most common. Sexual and physical abuse is generally the most shocking but emotional abuse can be more difficult to spot.
Signs of abuse
It’s tricky to know when to react and when the stay out of the situation. Cyber Parent advises that one sign, seen once or twice, does not necessarily mean anything. Keep watching before you jump to conclusions but once you are reasonably sure, be sure to take action. A culture of silence and “staying out of it” in South Africa means that too many children suffer in alone — often fatally.
- Sores, burns, bruises on body
- A reluctance or vagueness about where these originated
- Bruises and burns are the most persistent physical symptoms.
- Soiled diapers, dirty hair, unwashed clothes, body odor.
- Sometimes weight loss and lackluster skin and/or hair can indicate neglect, particularly in a proper or sufficient diet.
Emotional or Mental Abuse
This is harder to tell. Abused children often become quiet but that is not always a way to a sign. Lack of self-esteem is another way to tell but again, that does not mean children are abused.
Remember that inappropriate touching is also sexual abuse. This is not uncommon, particularly when alcohol or drugs are involved.
How to respond to child abuse
- who the child is
- particulars of the biological parents or care givers
- address where the child currently lives and, if away from the parents, the address of the parents
- dates and types of incidents
- history of previous incidents
- contact details of other persons who could confirm alleged abuse
Remember that according to Section 42 of the Child Care Act, 1983, the following professionals are obliged to report any suspicions of child abuse or ill treatment:
- medical practitioner
- social worker
- any person employed by or managing a children’s home or a place of care or shelter
- any ordinary member of society who suspects that a child is being abused or maltreated is also obliged to report his or her suspicions.