Sunday, June 19, 2011

Child abuse

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Hypothesis Child Abuse is a big problem in Australia. The legal rights of children, and organizations dealing with children affected by child abuse, urgently need to be strengthened.

Types of Abuse

First, in order to understand child abuse it is helpful to know exactly what it means. There are many legal and operational variations in the definition of child abuse. However, all definitions refer to the physical or psychological damage caused to the child by the abusive behavior of others, or the failure of others to protect a child from such damage. Most commonly, the categories of abuse cover physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect.

~ Physical abuse is any non-accidental physical injury inflicted on a child. This may include beatings, burns and scalds, fractures, poisoning, bruises or welts, internal injuries, shaking injuries or strangulation.

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~ Sexual abuse is any sexual behavior imposed on a child. The child is considered to be unable to alter and/or understand the perpetrators behavior due to his or her early stage of development and/or powerlessness in the situation. The perpetrators position of authority and/or trust enables him or her implicitly or directly to coerce the child into sexual compliance.

~ Emotional abuse is a constant attitude or behavior towards a child, which is detrimental to or impairs the childs emotional and/or physical development. This may take the form of scape goating, emotional rejection, isolation, or continuing verbal abuse.

~ Neglect is any serious omission or commission by a person, which jeopardizes or impairs the childs physical, intellectual, or emotional development. A child who is neglected may be consistently dirty and unwashed, without appropriate supervision for extended periods of time and, therefore, may be at risk of injury or harm, constantly tired, hungry, listless, and with medical conditions related to poor hygiene.

As an example of child abuse I would like to share with you the story of David Pelzer his story can be found in his autobiography called “A Child Called It”. In the book he relates that for his developmentary years form age ½ to 1 he was denied food, beaten, and physically and mentally tortured in various ways. Some of these include being smashed face-first into mirrors, forced to eat the contents of his sibling’s diapers and rotten meat, forced to swallow spoonfuls of ammonia. This was all instigated by his mother a devoted den mother to the Cub Scouts in her care and nurturing to her other children � but not to David, whom she referred to as “it”. She starved him for days at a time and forced him to vomit after every day at school to make sure he wasn’t sneaking any food. When he tried stealing scraps from the garbage, she laced the trashcan with ammonia. She forced him to take ice-cold baths with just his nose above water. She often locked him in the bathroom with a bucket of ammonia and Clorox (a deadly chemical) the toxic fumes in the ‘gas chamber’ as he called it, burnt his throat and nearly killed him. His mother beat him with a dog chain, a broom, her fists, burnt his hand on a gas stove, stabbed him in the chest, then left him to clean up the wound.

Although this is an extreme case of child abuse it highlights the need to protect children from such acts of violence.

In Australia an estimated 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 7 boys have been sexually abused before the age of sixteen! Most are abused by family members or others in a position of trust, many of them pillars of the community. Less than 1% of perpetrators are ever convicted of the abuse that is reported. Only 8% of abuse is reported. Perpetrators ensure that victims are too afraid or ashamed to tell, or have no one they can tell. For most, the abuse continues for years. All are emotionally scarred for life. Unless they are helped to heal many later turn to drugs; some die of overdoses. Many attempt suicide; some succeed. (Australian Child protection Alliance)

Figure 1 is the complied data from the Kids Help Line in South Australia during 001-00

Figure is the graphing of data in 001. It is the calling profile of Kids Help Line in South Australia. Females made 7% of the calls conserning child abuse, males made 1%. Figure graphs the age and sex of each caller calling about child abuse.

What is being done?

The government has established specialist police, education, health and welfare services to provide assistance to victims and their families. Protective programs have been introduced into schools. Policies have been formulated and other procedures have been updated. Legal reforms have been implemented and financial assistance has been given to self-help groups, strategies to work with abusers and a growing awareness of the problem in the community. This is helping to change attitudes towards child victims and those who hurt them.

A convicted child abuse offender will be place in custody for a minimum of 10 years with the option of bail in 5 years. Many believe that that amount of time is not nearly long enough. Persons convicted of not reporting abuse to the appropriate authorities are placed in custody for a minimum of years with bail available to the offenders as early as 6 months after being placed in custody.

What needs to be done in the future?

The greatest chance we have to prevent it.

Prevention of child abuse must be tackled on a number of levels

Primary Prevention is everyones responsibility. The goal is to stop abuse before it happens. Part of this is changing attitudes towards violence, protecting childrens rights and changing the way we behave as a society.

Secondary Prevention includes the recognition that parenting is difficult and that it can create stressful situations. Family support, respite care, personal safety programs, self esteem groups, community awareness programs, parenting skills courses, non-violent conflict resolution courses and self-help groups all can assist in preventing abuse. This is the responsibility of agencies, volunteer groups and others who must offer parents and other caregivers support rather than judgmental criticisms.

Tertiary Prevention is the responsibility of government agencies, which must act to protect a child who has already been abused. They must provide the best services available. Their duty is to ensure the child is safe from future harm.

The community needs to have harsher penalties for child abuse offenders. It is thought by some that we should follow some other countries leads which place the offenders in custody for life. It is the view taken by many that as a nation we are too lax in our child abuse laws and the punishment of the offenders.


Although a variety of child abuse intervention strategies have been introduced around Australia, few have been subject to evaluation. We know little if anything about the relative effectiveness and efficiency of child abuse programs in Australia.

Child abuse needs to be tackled on all fronts, social, legal, personal, and if we want to prevent it, we need to provide support for parents, research information for professionals and a community, which refuses to allow violence against its most vulnerable members.

The legal rights of abused children, the need for preventative measures have come along way from what they once were, BUT they still need to improve in order to insure the safety of our future generations.

Information found lessons/ChildAbuse.ppt





David Pelzer, autobiography. “A Child Called ‘IT’”

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Statistics found in “Child Abuse South Australia 001-00” Report,

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