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Psychology:Child Abuse March 28, 1998 People have many different opinions and definitions concerning child abuse. Some people see using reasonable force to discipline a child as acceptable. Other people see using any amount of physical force against a child as wrong and do not agree with it. In its broadest sense the term refers to any harm physically or emotionally done to a child. In the U.S the “Child abuse Prevention and Treatment Act” defines child abuse as “Physical or mental injury, sexual abuse, negligent treatment of maltreatment of a child under the age of 18 by a person who is responsible for the child’s welfare under circumstances which indicate that the child’s health or welfare is harmed or threatened. In Canadian law, section forty-three of “The Canadian Criminal Code” states: Every school teacher, parent or person standing in place of a parent is justified in using force by way of correction toward a pupil or child who is under his care, if the force does not exceed what is reasonable under the circumstances. Therefore, child abuse is the violence and cruelty that occurs against children at the hands of adults, and the crimes are without reasonable defense because the victims are extremely vulnerable and unable to defend themselves. The sexual, mental, emotional, and physical abuse and cruelty that occurs against children by the hands of adults for insufficient reasons, is severely increasing among our society and must immediately be put to an end. An abusive parent can be defined as someone who has failed in his or her role as caretaker of the child. Often it is the unexpected parent, aunt, uncle, cousin, or family friend that causes the child to feel anger, grief, pain and fear, which are forms of the abuse, which occurs against the child. Consider the case of Don Wierenga in Vancouver, June 1996. He spanked his daughter five or six times with an opened hand because she wanted him to play catch with her and he was not in the mood. Don then reported himself to a social worker. In court the judge gave him probation because he felt Wierenga was using more than reasonable force and was therefore going against what section forty-three states. Most of the time people hit their children because they are angry and frustrated with them and they use it as a punishment to them. When an adult gets out of control that is when hitting as a punishment can get very dangerous and serious. People can often get out of control because they are dealing with a very difficult child or they might have a lot of stress for reasons outside their relationship with the child and they do not know how to deal with it. The reason for the abuse may also be that the adult was brought up with child abuse in their family and they have learned that using corporal punishment is thought of as acceptable. A child is an innocent victim to the adult and even if they are causing trouble, abuse is no answer. If an adult feels that they are out of control they should stop and take a “time out”. If the urge reoccurs they should seek help. Children are born into the world and totally depend upon their parents or their caretakers for their survival and welfare. Parents are supposed to provide unconditional care, protection, and emotional support to their children. Although there may be numerous rewards inherent in parenting, a child can never be justifiably expected to care for his parent in return. A normal healthy, realistic parent cannot demand his own child will fulfill his own personal needs for food, clothing, shelter, or sex. Whenever the parent tries to deny his child the right to be a child, and compels the youngster to act as a partner, an exploitative situation comes into being, and that child may become a victim of sexual abuse. When a parent coerces a child into a sexual encounter of any type, the bond between them becomes broken and the effect on the child’s normal emotional and sexual development is always destructive. Female children are more often subject to sexual assault than young boys, and sexual exploitation by a known and trusted adult has unfortunately become a reality in the lives of countless young girls. Incest between mothers and sons is not a very common occurrence but a large number of mother-son incest incidents involve the rape of a mother by an adolescent boy. When a parent molests a young boy, the aggressor is as likely to be his father as his mother. The vast majority of sexual contacts between boys and adults are homosexual. Unfortunately in most child abuse situations the child feels threatened and often obeys even if the actions cause them to feel guilty. Many results of sexual molestation upon a child when they are young will force them to live with feelings of depression, loneliness, and low self-confidence especially about the sexual aspect. While it is true that children do have sexual feelings and do seek affection and attention from adults, it is the adult’s responsibility to respond to the child’s feelings and gestures in an appropriate manner. Exploiting the child for the parent’s own sexual gratification is inappropriate to say the least. A recent study which showed the results of abused children found that 83% of the children were neglected, 60% were physically abused, 23% were sexually abused, and 19% of all cases involved all three forms. People are becoming more serious about child abuse and are beginning to see it for the serious problem, which it is. In 1990 the number of cases reported in Canada was 19 544; by 1992 Canadians began to see the abuse a more serious problem and the cases reported increased to 21 077 that year. This marked increase in the number of reports shows how much more seriously people feel about child abuse and how they are accepting their responsibility to report it. In 1985 Canada introduced certain laws that gave people responsibility for reporting child abuse. For example, Ontario’s “Child and Family Service Act” states, ” Every person who believes on reasonable grounds that a child is or may be in need of protection must report promptly the belief and the information upon which it is based to a Children’s Aid Society. The act also states special responsibilities imposed on professionals and officials to report abuse. “Professionals and officials have the same duty as any of the public to report a child’s need for protection. However, the act recognizes that persons working closely with the children have a special awareness of children who may be in abusive situations. Thus, the legislation gives these professionals a particular reporting responsibility. These responsibilities are a big step and an important part of the battle against child abuse. If people fail to report child abuse they are liable on conviction up to a fine of a thousand dollars. After a report is made a Children’s Aid Society worker will investigate the case immediately, and they have the right to remove the child if the child is not safe. Any person who reports a case of child abuse does not have to reveal their identity for reasons of safety, although the Children’s Aid Society does prefer to know who you are so that they can contact you for further information. If a person who has reported a case feels that their safety is threatened they will be provided with free legal protection. Child abuse should be discussed more in schools and throughout society at large. Children should be encouraged to come forward if they are the victims of abuse, because if all the victims would come forward then child abuse would be decreased drastically. Increased awareness of child abuse, as a serious problem is an important factor in battling the problem. Adults have to take responsibility to fight child abuse because children can definitely not do it alone. However, there are now many place children can go to for help. Some of these places are, C.P.S. (Child Protective Services), and the Children’s Aid Societies. These services often receive reports from Health Professional Personnel, police, and members of the public. Limited resources can prevent these sources from investigating all of the cases that people report to them. There are also many groups to help the abusers seek help to recover from their problems. These are all effective ways in which the destructive abuse can be put to an end and become unheard of. In conclusion, it should be emphasized that children should be publicly encouraged to come forward if they are being abused and that anyone who is aware of abuse should report it promptly. Children should also be encouraged through education in schools and media such as radio and television. Adults should also be educated as to where help is available for them. Their awareness could also be heightened through television, radio, newspapers, and magazines. This type of publicity could also be used to make the public aware of their responsibilities to the children of our society. If we can break the cycle of abuse that often passes from one generation to the next, we will be well on our way to curing the problem.

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