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Arupe Jesuit University Ethics Essay Competition

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Friday, May 31, 2019

Child protection and care has become a major issue in today’s world. What are the major vulnerabilities that children are facing today? Discuss what ethical efforts ought to be made to safeguard children from all forms of abuses.

Her eyes show no life, only her smile tells a long story of shattered dreams and a bleak future. Shattered ambitions, shattered life, this is all she knows. The young mother, of an age below 18, is totally neglected and drowning in misery and poverty that is not even of her choice. What is the meaning of life then, if all people care about is their own pleasure at the hands of a suffering soul? You left her to shoulder the responsibility of a child she cannot even fend for. You cut a child’s life short and continued with yours? She is frail, tired and weary, but what can you do in a society that cares not? Clearly she can do absolutely nothing. So she shall only walk on then and silently pray for a miracle following the abuse that dimmed her light.

After consulting various sources for the most suitable definition of a child, the general description of a child is one who is under 18 years of age, is classified as unable to make serious and drastic decisions and legally must always be under the care of a responsible adult[1]. Child protection therefore refers to the measures that are taken to guard children against damage caused by, in this case other people .Child care by definition is that which is provided by either an organization, or a person, while parents are at work or are absent for another reason[2].This essay therefore serves to highlight the major weaknesses which can be exploited by threat actors to children and the ethical efforts that need to be executed to protect one of the most vulnerable age groups in society [3]

As years and years go by, the same outcry concerning abuse has been heard from all over the world. Now what is abuse? This is simply is any behaviour exhibited to control, intimidate, threaten, or injure another person. It is a misuse of power which uses the bonds of intimacy, trust and dependency to make the victim vulnerable.[4] Why are we fighting against child abuse? The damaging consequences of abuse can not only reshape a child’s brain but also last a lifetime; this can profoundly influence victims’ physical and mental health, their ability to control emotions and impulses, their achievement in school, and the relationships they form as children and as adults. Mental and behavioural disorders include poor academic performance, depression, alcoholism, substance abuse, deviant sexual behaviours, and domestic and criminal violence. It is well known that for children, their behaviour is transcending as they learn new traits from people when they are growing thus they carry what they know up to an old age. Other than this, children’s rights are being threatened by early marriage, child labour and imprisonment.

In the United States of America, researchers found out that about 84% of all prison inmates had been abused as children; untreated child abuse has led to effects such as a 38% increase arrest rate for violent crimes. Child suicide too, also makes the cut as many children take their own lives following an abuse they could not talk about. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among adolescents worldwide.[5] We are losing lives day in and day out from child suicide cases and depression cases. Apart from the social area, child abuse has been affecting the economies of different nations, following the research done by the World Economic Forum in 2015, where they highlighted that it is dismally costing countries in East Asia and the Pacific an estimated $209 billion a year, equivalent to 2 per cent of the region’s GDP[6] .This simply means that the finances that can be used for other projects such as improving infrastructure or education systems is going to waste every year! There are vast effects of child abuse that are destroying the future and the world indirectly, they are so much that listing them would take a whole lifetime and this is why we need to take a stand and address these issues as they are costing us more than we realise.

Now one of the most common forms of child abuse that has really taken its toll in most nations is sexual abuse, assault or exploitation of children. It is also called child molestation. Forcing or enticing a child to take part in sexual activities[7] whether the child is aware of what is going on or not, is sexual abuse of a child. These ‘sexual activities’ include physical contact, involving rape which is defilement, buggery {which is any sexual act other than normal intercourse} or indecent assault. They also include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at or in the production of, sexual online content, watching sexual activities or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways. The perpetrators are usually related to the victim where it can be a family member[8], a church congregate, neighbours or even a complete stranger. Now less than a year ago, Childline Zimbabwe recorded close to 700 cases of different forms of child abuse from Mashonaland West amongst which sexual abuse was the most prevailing, dominating with 51% of the given records[9] ! Statistics of the year 2017 in the United States Of America showed that nearly 70% of all reported sexual assaults occur to children aged 17 and under. Sexual abuse is so common that the RAINN article once denoted that every 11 minutes, child protective services provide evidence to support claims of child sexual abuse, where 89% of all victims under 18 are female[10]. The girl child suffers the most as most times she is at risk of acquiring an early pregnancy and in most cases is left suffering alone (introduction story relating to an African Girl child who faced sexual abuse ).This surely denotes that sexual abuse in children is of major concern not only in Africa but worldwide.

Physical abuse is one of the major forms of child abuse that has really been of much concern lately. It is defined as a voluntary action that causes physical damage to the child, or development of physical diseases. Can physical punishment be considered as physical abuse? Physical punishment is the use of physical force with the intent of inflicting bodily pain for the purpose of correction. As you can see, physical punishment can easily get out of control and become physical abuse as well .Physical abuse might include severe physical punishment ,beating, slapping, hitting ,pushing, shaking, kicking, throwing, choking even hair-pulling and many more! I can mention a whole list of ways one could mistreat a child although these are just the common ones. In my own opinion, physical abuses is the one with most visible signs physically and even socially as most children exhibit resistance to going home if they are being mistreated at home or just the fear of most adults[11] if they are being ill-treated by an adult. This form of abuse is a massive potential threat to the childrens’ health, survival, development or dignity. It can also lead to mental disorders, depression and re-victimization (The victimization of an adult who was victimized as a child).Is physical abuse in children that much of a big deal? Now child violence has destroyed most of the children’s innocent young lives. The effects are so much that even the Sangonet article in a South African Newspaper highlighted that it can almost be put in the same category as a natural disaster, how insane![12] A study made by Unite for Sight also showed that up to 80 to 98 % of children suffer physical punishment in their homes and it is estimated that 57,000 children under the shocking age of 15 die as a result of physical abuse per year[13]. This analysis was mostly based on developing countries including most African countries. Let’s think about this, if the death of so many children due to physical abuse continues to increase who will be left?

Child neglect is one of the giants. Broadly defined by Wikipedia as a form of child abuse and is a deficit in meeting a child's basic needs, including the failure to provide adequate health care, supervision, clothing, nutrition, housing as well as their physical, emotional, social, educational and safety needs. Children can be neglected by their own birth parents, various caregivers or even relatives. I would like to believe that children facing or who have faced child neglect exhibit low self-esteem and little or no confidence at all. They are likely to suffer from depression and post-traumatic stress that can also lead to mental disorders in the long run. According to the NSPCC, scruffy, unwashed clothes, poor hygiene and untreated medical problems, are key signs of child neglect.[14] Drug addicts[15] and most children who get into drug dealing fall into the pit due to lack of supervision and concern from their guardians. In a research done by Child-help in America as many as two-thirds of the people in treatment for drug abuse reported being abused or neglected as children. Peter Wanless once mentioned in an article,’ these levels of neglect simply do not belong in the 21st century it’s an unacceptable happening which must be remedied.’ What he said was with no doubt the truth as in the 21st century there is no excuse at all to neglect a child as everyone is aware of the responsibilities that come with having to take care of a child properly.

Emotional abuse, is the most silent, dangerous and almost ignored form of child abuse. Child emotional abuse can be defined as a misunderstood form of trauma that can cause damage to a child’s developing brain, leading to long-term learning difficulties, problematic behaviours, and increased incidences of physical and mental health issues[16]. It consists of a series of abusive words, and bullying behaviours such as gossiping or name-calling just to wear down a person’s self-esteem and to undermine their mental health. It goes hand in hand with relational aggression which is a type of social manipulation where mostly teenagers try to hurt their peers or sabotage their social standing. It is one of the hardest forms of abuse to recognize. Either way, it chips away at the victim's self-esteem and they begin to doubt their perceptions and reality. They are often too wounded to endure these happenings, but too afraid to leave say maybe they traumatised by people who they can not necessarily run away from for example siblings, parents and relatives.So the cycle just repeats itself until something is done. The underlying goal in emotional abuse is to control the victim by discrediting, isolating, and silencing him/her. In the end, the victim feels trapped. Emotional abuse impacts friendships as emotionally abused people often worry about how people truly see them and if they truly like them. Eventually, victims will pull back from friendships and isolate themselves, convinced that no one likes them. What's more, emotional abuse can cause a number of health problems including everything from depression and anxiety to stomach ulcers, heart palpitations, eating disorders, and insomnia. In America in the year 2008, approximately 55,196 children were officially counted as victims of child emotional abuse[17]. Its scope remains uncertain as it usually goes unreported, although many sense that it is quite prevalent. Scares and bruises can be seen, but the wounds of emotional abuse can be long-lasting.

Because every child deserves to feel safe and have their needs met, the big question stands as, ’How can we use ethical efforts to safeguard these children from these forms of abuse?’ Despite the growing awareness and acknowledgement of child abuse as a societal problem, many people still do not fully grasp its nature and seriousness. Therefore, public awareness campaigns must be launched to both educate the public about the issue and to help people identify the role they can play in preventing child abuse. Havelock Ellis once said, ‘The parents have not only to train their children, is of at most equal importance to train them too”. I totally agree with what he said, maybe the problem is closer than we think and the answer too it nearby. Parents, teachers and educators should learn and know what affects their children in the present day. They should be able to listen, learn and understand their own children, that way they can take notice any unusual change in behaviour and help their children before it is too late. Parents should also mind who they leave their children with when they are travelling in order to ensure that they are not harmed. Governments and higher authorities of nations should  increasing research efforts to improve our understanding of child abuse, its nature, causes, and consequences, as well as what helps prevent it. Programs and activities, such as home visiting programs and parent mutual support self-help groups, hold potential for preventing child abuse.Research is needed to evaluate such programs and approaches to learn what works and what does not in preventing emotional abuse. Children should be taught that it is okay to say out whatever is going on, although they need support from communities and churches to let them know that they are not alone. They should be taught about their rights and what they stand for so that they can easily report any misfortunes.

Now when God created us, he instilled a purpose and a gift in each and every one of us to make the world a better place. This simply denotes that losing one life is robbing the world of one of its special gifts. Let us look at it this way, what if one of those children who died prior to abuse carried the formula that could eradicate AIDS to the grave? What if one of them was supposed to be the future president of a nation? What if all those children were the hope of the world? That low self-esteem and confidence which is resulting from abuse is keeping most ideas from being discovered and voices from being heard. It is destroying the future generations and those that follow after. Child abuse is underrated but it is more silently causing a lot of damage. No man is an island therefore we must work together to fight against child abuse. Let us voice out and save the future!