The spectre of physical child abuse looms large globally, with roughly 50,000 kids suffering that fate in Australia alone during 2021. In a perfect world, it would not happen, but sadly it does, and it’s incumbent on anyone who sees it or suspects it to report it to the relevant authorities.
While the problem of physical or sexual abuse is widely understood by the public, another form - emotional abuse - is something that's not quite as well comprehended. That said, it can be every bit as damaging.
What Are The Aftereffects Of Emotional Abuse?
The effects of emotional abuse (a.k.a. Psychological abuse) can be profound, as a child can end up feeling confused and unwanted. Being ignored by a parent on its own can be enough to cause lasting damage, as can be told they're worthless, responsible for a marriage break-up, or worse. It's a nasty and insidious problem that slowly erodes a child's esteem and feeling of safety.
Why Do People Not Report Safeguarding Concerns?
Sadly, emotional child abuse can often be overlooked, particularly if the parent responsible makes up tales about why their son or daughter is acting withdrawn or nervous at school. It can take many forms and so happens an awful lot in modern society.
Emotional abuse may include:
- Ignoring a child's limitations & forcing them into uncomfortable situations
- Never give a child praise for good work or actions
- Not allowing a child to have or make friends
- Always making a child the butt of jokes
- Being an absent parent (even when present)
- Failing to offer any kind of love or comfort
- Embarrassing a child on purpose
- Threatening behaviour
- Blaming them for everything
- Constant criticism
This can have an adverse effect on child development, with the individual feeling like they have no place in the world. It's the exact opposite of positive parenting. Anything that unnecessarily hurts a child's feelings or self-esteem can be placed in this category and lead to physical and mental illness later in life.
Signs That Psychological Abuse Is Occurring
As is often taught in professional childcare courses, In order to do something about emotional abuse, you first have to spot the signs. They can be difficult to identify in isolation; however, when one or more is being presented, it could point toward there being a problem at home.
Those signs include:
- A drop in academic performance
- Excessive depression or anxiety
- A desire to hurt others or themselves
- The constant need for affection from adults (but not parents)
- Bedwetting or other issues with their personal development
- A loss of interest in their favourite activities
- Low self-esteem
Knowing Who To Speak To For Help
If you suspect that a child you know is being physically or emotionally abused, it’s important that you seek the correct help. What you shouldn’t do is confront the parent, as you risk making things worse for the child in question. Instead, you should raise your concerns to the appropriate channels.
In this particular situation, you should be getting in contact with the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS), with the path needed depending on the state in which you live. It's important to state that you don't have to be 100% sure that the problem exists, only that it is suspected.
Children Can Get Help Too
It's not really for you to decide, so calling the correct authority is the correct path, as they will decide whether to investigate or not. Also, when serious concerns are held of immediate danger, it’s best to phone rather than report it online.
Kids themselves can get support if they are in need of help, too, with the Kids Helpline being a 24-hour number they can call. That number is 1800 55 1800 and is completely free to use.
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