In light of recent events regarding sexual, domestic as well as child abuse, I thought it imperative to write about abuse.
It is important for everyone to understand what abuse is, types and how to detect it.
What is Abuse
Abuse according to Wikipedia is the improper usage or treatment of a thing, often to unfairly or improperly gain benefit. It also means the violent treatment of a person or animal. It is a violation of an individual’s human and civil rights and in the worst cases can result in death. There are different types of abuse, and abuse in whatever form often leads to devastating outcomes.
Abuse can happen to anybody – young, old, male, female, animals even objects can be abused. Abuse is always wrong and can be difficult to talk about. This can be because of fear of stigmatisation, shame, guilt and confusion.
Abuse is often about power and the person who abuses uses that power to get an individual to do things they don’t want to do. It is hurtful either mentally or physically.
Abuse isn’t always carried out by a stranger, it can be by a familiar person, which can make it hard to speak out. The danger is, family or others who don’t know about the abuse will think it is safe to leave the victim with this person. This is why it is important to be aware of any abuse as soon as possible
Abuse is always wrong and if you tell someone, they can help to make it stop.
There are many different types of abuse and they all result in behaviour towards a person that deliberately or intentionally cause harm.
- Physical Abuse: This is when someone hurts another on purpose. It is the most common type of abuse and certainly the easiest form of abuse to spot as it is non-accidental harm to the body. It can range from physical injuries such as hitting, pushing, wounding etc. to things such as misuse of medication, inappropriate use of restraint and dehydration/malnourishment.
- Sexual Abuse: This is when an individual is touched where they shouldn’t be or forced, tricked, or pressured to take part in a sexual activity. Sexual abuse includes being touched, kissed or forced to have sex without consent and often by an older person.
- Psychological Abuse: also known as Verbal or Emotional Abuse is when an individual’s self-esteem and emotional well being is being damaged. It is deliberately causing emotional and mental pain. Verbal abuse is when an individual is being constantly shouted at and told horrible and demeaning things. While emotional abuse involves deliberately trying to scare, humiliate, isolate or ignore an individual. Emotional abuse can be part of other abuse and it can also happen on its own.
- Neglect: This is when a person – usually an elderly, young or dependent person is not being looked after or kept healthy.
- Modern Slavery: Modern Slavery is an international crime. Slave Masters and Traffickers will deceive, coerce and force adults into a life of abuse, callous treatment and slavery. It includes human trafficking, forced labour, domestic servitude, sexual exploitation, such as escort work, prostitution and pornography. Debt bondage – being forced to work to pay off debts that realistically they never will be able to pay etc is another form of modern slavery.
- Domestic Abuse: this could be a kind of ‘physical, sexual, psychological or financial violence, it, however, takes place within an intimate or family-type relationship and forms a pattern of cohesive and controlling behaviour’. People should be aware that domestic violence is not always physical and also includes forced marriage and so-called ‘honour crimes’.
- Child Abuse: Child abuse is more common than we like to think and could happen to any child anywhere. Statistics show that every year thousands of children are abused physically by a parent or someone known. Child abuse is characterised by any actions of a carer that could potentially harm a child’s mental or physical health. Research shows that many aggressors were abused themselves as children. Child abuse, unfortunately, could take the form of any of the abuse types on this list including child labour and exploitation.
Abuse is usually about power, it involves someone using their power to get another person to do what they do not want to do. Abusive behaviour can have a significant impact on our mental health and well-being – not only at the time of the abuse, but there can be lasting effects throughout a person’s life.
Signs of Abuse
- unexplained changes in behaviour or personality
- becoming withdrawn and isolated
- seeming anxious
- becoming uncharacteristically aggressive
- lacks social skills and has few friends, if any
- poor bond or relationship with a parent
- knowledge of adult issues inappropriate for their age
- running away or going missing
- always choosing to wear clothes which cover their body.
- Expressions of anger, frustration, fear or anxiety
- An air of silence when a particular person is present
- Low self-esteem
- Uncooperative and aggressive behaviour
- A change of appetite
- weight loss/gain
- Signs of distress: tearfulness, anger
- Bruising, particularly to the thighs, buttocks and upper arms and marks on the neck
- Torn, stained or bloody underclothing
- Bleeding, pain or itching in the genital area
- Unusual difficulty in walking or sitting
- Foreign bodies in genital or rectal openings
- Infections, unexplained genital discharge, or sexually transmitted diseases
- Pregnancy in a woman who is unable to consent to sexual intercourse
- The uncharacteristic use of explicit sexual language or significant changes in sexual behaviour or attitude
- Incontinence not related to any medical diagnosis
- Poor concentration, withdrawal, sleep disturbance
- Excessive fear/apprehension of, or withdrawal from, relationships
- Fear of receiving help with personal care
- Reluctance to be alone with a particular person
- Physical evidence of violence such as bruising, cuts, broken bones
- Verbal abuse and humiliation in front of others
- Fear of outside intervention
- Damage to home or property
- Isolation – not seeing friends and family
Limited access to money
- No explanation for injuries or inconsistency with the account of what happened
- Injuries are inconsistent with the person’s lifestyle
- Bruising, cuts, welts, burns and/or marks on the body or loss of hair in clumps
- Frequent injuries
- Unexplained falls
- Subdued or changed behaviour in the presence of a particular person
- Signs of malnutrition
- Failure to seek medical help.
- Low self-esteem
Signs of Psychological Abuse
- Loss of sleep
- Unexpected or unexplained change in behaviour
Signs of Neglect
- Untreated medical problems
- Bed sores
- Deprivation of meals may constitute “wilful neglect”
Abuse is never good and we all should do everything possible to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone around us. Let’s all be aware of the signs so that we can look out for it not just with our children, but with their friends, neighbours, employees, colleagues etc. You may help save a life by being observant.
During my research on abuse, I came upon a type of abuse which may not seem so common but is apparently very common now in our society.
“For from the least to the greatest of them,Jeremiah 6:13-14
everyone is greedy for unjust gain;
and from prophet to priest,everyone deals falsely.
They have healed the wound of my people lightly,saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace.
Spiritual abuse revolves around a person’s spirituality or religion. This type of abuse includes attacking another’s belief system, denying access to a house of worship or forced participation in a cult and exploitation
Spiritual abuse’ covers a wide variety of behaviours, but can be summarised as the use of spiritual authority or spiritual means in order to demean, manipulate, control or exploit someone. It involves Psychological manipulation and could be intentional or innocent. Sadly spiritual abuse could take the form of financial exploitation as well as sexual abuse and parents should be observant of their children and relationships with spiritual/religious leaders as well as religious brothers and sisters.
My major concern is on child abuse. It’s hard to believe the stories coming out recently about sexual (child abuse) that has been going on over the years. It gladdens my heart that victims are now finding their voices and talking about their experience thereby finding healing as well as helping people know what to look out for.
If you’re one of the people who blame victims, please desist from this. You were not present and have no idea what victims have endured over the years. Some successfully block such encounters but not all can do this. Whilst I’m aware that some ladies lie about it, most of the cases are true and the victims should be supported not victimised.
Predators are people who ruthlessly exploit others. A common trend in sexual abuse stories is the predators are usually known to the victim. Predators are usually people children are familiar with and have access to the children. We’ve seen sad cases of fathers, uncles, cousins, brothers and sisters as well as domestic help molesting children. The best a parent can do for their child is to be present. If you can’t be present most of the time please be observant and ask questions. If you can, put CCTV around the house and any other security measure you can.
Please be aware that female employees also abuse, don’t let your guards down because you have a female maid, female maids have also been known to abuse both male and female children sexually, emotionally as well as physically.
- Be accessible, let your child(ren) know they can tell you anything
- Tell them about their body, let them know what part of the body is private and should never be touched by anyone.
- Assure your children that there is nothing at all they do that can ever be too bad to tell you, let them know you’ll love them no matter what.
- Teach your children to respect other peoples privacy and body.
- Let your children know anyone who tells them to keep a secret should be reported.
- Let them know they should scream if they find themselves in a situation they’re not comfortable with.
- Do not leave your child(ren) alone with drivers, lesson teachers etc.
They’re so many things to look out for as we live in a wicked dark world, the best we can do is be vigilant. Ask questions, more questions and even more questions and don’t make any topic a taboo.
Please beware of grooming.
Grooming is when someone builds a relationship, trust and emotional connection with a child or young person so they can manipulate, exploit and abuse them. Children and young people can be groomed online, in person or both – by a stranger or someone they know. This could be a family member, a friend or someone who has targeted them – like a teacher, faith group leader or sports coach.
It can be difficult to tell if a child is being groomed – the signs aren’t always obvious and may be hidden. Older children might behave in a way that seems to be “normal” teenage behaviour, masking underlying problems.
Signs of grooming include:
- being very secretive about how they’re spending their time, including when online
- having an older boyfriend or girlfriend
- having money or new things like clothes and mobile phones that they can’t or won’t explain
- underage drinking or drug taking
- spending more or less time online or on their devices
- being upset, withdrawn or distressed
- sexualised behaviour language or an understanding of sex that’s not appropriate for their age
- spending more time away from home or going missing for periods of time.
A child is unlikely to know they’ve been groomed. They might be worried or confused and less likely to speak to an adult they trust. If a teacher is taking interest in your child and showing them favour be very careful and report to school authorities if it’s getting out of hand. Let your child know to inform you if any teacher is giving them preferential treatment.
The world is innately evil, abuse didn’t start today and unfortunately won’t end anytime soon. The best we can do is empower our children by giving them information so they know what to do if they find themselves in such situations. Please be a present parent and an ever-ready listening ear to your children, that’s the best service you can offer them.
Good luck to us all.
Recommended books for children
- Kelvin’s Adventure of staying Super Safe – Olatunde Turner-Edem
- Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept – Jayneen Sanders (this one is quite intense, I didn’t read it to my 4-year-old, I think it’s more appropriate for older kids).
- No! Don’t touch me there – Nomthi Odukoya
- My Body! What I say GOES! – Jayleen Sanders
- I said No! – Kimberly King and Zack King
Recommended reads on safety