Every year 150 - 200 children die of child abuse in Britain. There are several different types of child abuse, although the exact categories vary from country to country. In Britain five types of abuse are recognised: physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, emotional abuse and failure to thrive. In many cases children don't suffer only from one type, for example, sexual abuse often includes emotional abuse.
In the following pages I worked out more details of four of these types plus child labour, plus child prostitution and plus child pornography.
2.1. Physical abuse
Physical abuse is the most recognised type of abuse, because the consequences, like broken bones, burns, bites, bruises and brain damages are often visible.
But many injuries look like the result of everyday accidents and abusers use this fact to avoid suspicion.
To decide if an injury is the result of physical abuse or not, you have to think of some factors:
- Is this the first time the child has suffered from this injury?
- Is the explanation of the parents how the injury happened possible or not?
- Was the child brought straight to hospital or was there a delay?
In general a small amount of physical punishment is considered as normal. Many parents smack their children, when they are naughty. This shows their helplessness. They don't know how to treat their children. Instead of talking or explaining parents often lose their temper and become aggressive. But isn't this sort of punishment a kind of abuse either? Where should we draw the line between punishment and abuse?
Besides physical punishment doesn't produce better-behaved children. Parents have to set limits to change their behaviour. With smacking they only tell their children what they have done wrong but not what thy should make better.
2.2. Sexual abuse
Sexual abuse is now considered to be the most harmful type of abuse.
There are three main types:
- Incest: abuse in the family, for example between children and their biological or step-parents, or between brothers and sisters. Most of the cases of sexual abuse is incest.
- Abuse between stranger and a child (including paedophile abuse)
- Sexual exploitation (pornographic films or books, child prostitution)
Sexual abuse is heavily discovered, because the child is mostly frightened by the abuser and sometimes he or she thinks it's his/her own fault or they feel ashamed. Children normally trust their parents, they admire and love them. First kids believe that everything what Mum or Dad is doing is good. So when they realise that the relationship is not "normal", that there are things which hurt them, kids think that it is their own fault and not the one of their perfect parents. They feel ashamed and try to keep it secret.
The average age of a sexually abused child is ten years and 80% of these children registered as being abused were girls.
2.3. Emotional abuse
Emotional abuse is the most difficult category of abuse to define. It is so closely connected with the other types of abuse that some countries don't accept it as a separate form.
Generally emotional abuse is when parents are unable to show their child love and affection, or when they threaten or shout at the child all the time, so that he/she loses self-confidence and becomes nervous. Constant hassle and criticism instead of praise and love have serious effects on the child's personality. For example, it might be hard for them to form successful relationships.
Example (given in the book "child abuse"):
"My mum makes me work for four hours after school every day. At weekend I only get a couple of hours play. She says I'll thank her when I got older. But whatever I do, she is never satisfied."
2.4. Failure of thrive
Failure of thrive is also called growth retardation. Some children grow more slowly as a consequence of neglect.
In the "Munchausen by proxy syndrome" a mother causes or imagines her child to be ill. She also may use drugs and poisons to produce symptoms of illness. Often the abused child is smaller than other children of the same age.
2.5.1. Child labour
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) says 250 Million children between the age of 5 and 14 are working - 61% of them in Asia, 32% in Africa, 7% in Latin America and a small amount in rich countries: 2 million in the EU. This means that one of three children in Africa, one of four in Asia and one of five in Latin America works.
About 20% of children in developing countries earn no money for their work and two - third of child workers live in the county and not in town.
120 Million children work full time, this means they can\' t go to school, learn a trade or have any time for playing.
When there is no possibility of attending school, maybe it's better for children to work than hang out in the streets. Some children's movements, like the Nats (= Ninos y Adolescentes Trabajadores = Child and Teenage Workers) are against the intention of the United Nations to abolish child labour. The Nats don't regard prostitution, slavery, drug trafficking and work, that is harmful to heath as work, but as punishable crimes. What they want is to improve their work conditions: more respect, more work breaks, a better wage and access to education and health care. A general ban of child labour would it make hard for them to survive, because working gives them self-confidence, know-how and money to feed themselves.
The social situation in these countries is very bad. Parents have a lot of children who should support them when they are old. People have hardly any medical treatment, there are many less-paid jobs, starvation, high unemployment rate, exploitation, corruption, ...
2.5.2. Child prostitution
In the United States
- There are between 100 000 and 300 000 children sexually exploited through prostitution and pornography.
- 25-30% of all prostitutes are children younger than 18.
- Many of them can make $500 -600 a night, but they hardly ever see more than $25. The rest is for their pimps.
- 70% of female-juvenile prostitutes have been raped by customers an average of 31 times per prostitute.
Reason for this type of exploitation: Many "costumers" think that sex with juvenile prostitutes is safer than sex with adult prostitutes. This is wrong. On the contrary, children run the highest risk to transmit diseases like HIV/AIDS, syphilis, herpes, hepatitis B,...
Victims: Most of them are 14 to 18 years old, belong to a middle-class family and suffer from low self-esteem and poor self-image. If the have problems and run away it will be easy to manipulate them, because soon they are hungry and alone, they want attention and affection. A pimp takes advantage of this and tries to get the child's trust. Only after a child is financially and emotionally dependent on him he introduces the child to the world of sexual exploitation.
Consequences for the victim: female prostitutes are beaten by their pimps and abused by their customers.
- Because most of the victims are runaways, first parents have to learn how to communicate with their children.
- In order to protect runaways from the dangers of the street, like child prostitution, professionals have to be educated.
- To make the children aware of the danger.
- A lot of prostitutes are also drug addicts, who need the money to buy drugs. If you increase the number of drug addicts you will also increase the number of prostitutes.
In Asian countries (Thailand, Sri Lanka,..)
Most of the girls are forced by their parents to earn money through prostitution. Because many families are excluded from benefits, selling a daughter often seems to be the only possible opportunity to join the "good life", which mean having a comfortable house, a TV set, a motorcycle,...
- First of all, the attitude of men towards women and sexuality has to change.
- There should be stricter laws and punishments.
- We also can provide financial support to help girls in school, so they will have more alternative jobs.
Why do men use the sex trade in Asia?
- In their home country they are afraid to lose their good reputation
- The presence of so many other people acting the same way justify any of their actions
- The further one travels from home the less moral he becomes.
- It's exiting to do something you could never do at home.
- A lot of men prefer young girls, especially virgins, because then they can be sure not to be infected with a venereal disease. Young girls also have a touch of innocence and freshness, that turns on some men.
2.6. Child pornography
Child pornography is a very harmful industry. The children used in pornography are between the age of a few months and 18 years. While those who molest children are selective concerning age, sex and race of their victims, the persons who offers pornography takes every child.
Photographs, videotapes, films, and magazines of children in sexual poses and acts make up a lot of money. Especially the meaning of internet concerning child pornography is getting more and more important. The operations between the child pornographer and the pedophiles are underground and restricted. Children are intimidated and often come into contact with sexually transmitted diseases, rape and torture.
Through the internet it's very easy for pedophiles to exchange pornographic materials, including names and addresses of children. With the help of modern techniques (encryption) molesters are able to transport information and photographs with little chance of detection.
How do pedophiles contact children?
More and more often they get to know each other on an electronic bulletin board. The molester asks the child to be his pen pal, they exchange private messages and the grown-up gets all the information he needs (family background, friends,...), especially the trust of the child. He gives him/her a lot of love and affection and convinces him/her not to be loved at home. The child believes him and consequently he/she is doing what the molester wants her/him to do.
It's difficult for police to regulate computer pornography. Sure, there are laws that forbid it in any way, but if the police discovers such a web-side, it might be copied. To prevent such sides, police must be able to control provider services to censor pornographic bulletin boards. Therefore law must be changed and a lot of money will be necessary.