Child abuse on the rise | Sunday Observer

Child abuse on the rise

21 October, 2018

Child abuse or child maltreatment is physical, sexual, or psychological maltreatment or neglect of a child or children, especially, by a parent or caregiver. Child abuse may include any act or failure to act by a parent or caregiver that results in actual or potential harm to a child, and can occur in a child’s home, or in the organisations, schools or communities the child interacts with. According to sources from the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA), over 10,000 child abuse cases were reported in 2017 and 1,532 cases reported within the first two months of this year.

Clinical Psychiatrist, Government Base Hospital, Psychiatry Unit, Kiribathgoda, Dr. N. Kumaranayake spoke to the Sunday Observer about child maltreatment and mentions some tips on how children can be aware and careful. “As a clinical psychiatrist my experience has shown that many of our children are being abused in various ways in society, it is hidden and many do not understand,” he says.

“Child abuse can result from physical, emotional, or sexual harm. While child abuse is often in the form of an action, there are also examples of inaction that cause harm, such as neglect. Some households that suffer from alcoholism or substance abuse and anger issues have higher occurrences of child abuse as compared to households without.

Outcomes of child abuse can result in both short and long term injury, and even death. There are some children who may be unaware that they are victims of child abuse,” Dr. Kumaranayake explained.

Of the child abuse complaints reported in 2015 to the NCPA, 2,317 were related to cruelty to children, 1,463 on not receiving compulsory education, 885 neglecting of children, 735 on sexual harassment and 433 on rape, and 365 on grave sexual abuse.“We have to fight this disaster,” says Dr. Kumaranayake. “Child abuse can stymie a child’s normal growth and development. The emotional and physical damage children suffer is extensive. Documented consequences of abuse include chronic health problems and cognitive and language disorders. Child abuse victims may repeat the violent acts they experienced on their own children one day.Although most victims can overcome the scars some may become abusive when they become parents or caregivers,” he explained.

“I have experience handling children who are victims of child abuse. I handled a boy aged 15 who had the symptoms of stealing, lying and was impulsive. He was doing well in studies but dropped his academic at the age 10 after his mother left the country for a job in the Middle East. His father then became an alcoholic, his behaviour becoming violent,” he said. He said, “Thereafter the boy had to spend an isolated and lonely life. He gradually reached his friends and got addicted to cannabis. I have identified his condition in psychology as ‘Conduct Disorder.’ This is a common problem in Sri Lanka.”

Dr. N. Kumaranayake says, many children in Sri Lanka are a victim of educational abuse. “Research has shown that one of the biggest anxieties for children currently is exam anxiety. The competition and our exam system are responsible for this disaster” he says.

“I recently came across a child aged 19 who performed well in both O/L and A/L Examinations but could not get sufficient marks to enter Medical Faculty. He lost his dreams and was desperate as his family members wanted him to become a doctor. His parents did not have money to send him abroad to continue his studies. Slowly he become isolated and started thinking about the future. He became depressed and committed suicide,” said Dr. Kumaranayake.

He explained that there are many issues children should be aware of in this society. “It is not a pleasant world as children dream. Children should learn how to protect themselves and must be aware of child abuse. “Abusing” basically means the improper usage of children.There are four types of improper usage, such as, sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse and neglecting,” he said. Learning to be protective from these abuses is an important concern in children’s lives. “If somebody touches unnecessarily or maltreats, please do not let it happen. At that moment, please say “don’t.” Move away immediately, and relate it to someone trustworthy. Express it continuously till somebody listens to you,” advises Dr. Kumaranayake.

Reports of increasing child abuse, neglect and exploitation are on the rise in the country.” Of about 15,000 legal trials pending nationwide, more than 4,000 (27 per cent) involve in some form of violence toward a child. It is sad to say that law makers, the police and ordinary people have a poor knowledge about the behaviors of assailants or abusers,” he said.

Dr. Kumaranayake believes, the ineffective programme by the NCPA is also a reason for the increase of child abuse rates. “NCPA has focused mainly on detection of abusers and influence the court procedures but primary prevention programs are poor.

They are not properly designed as an evidence based model. Lack of a teacher oriented, student oriented and community oriented primary prevention model is the main weakness in the NCPA,” he added.

According to the latest statistics from the NCPA, district wise, the highest number of complaints of 1,522 had been received from the Colombo District while 1187, 827, 700, 634, 622 ,573 and 540 complaints had been received from Gampaha, Kurunegala, Galle, Kalutara, Ratnapura, Anuradhapura and Puttalam districts respectively.

The Authority requests the public to make complaints on any kind of child abuse or child right violations via hotline 1929. It is a toll free 24 hour hotline dedicated to receiving complaints on child abuse and child right violations. It also provides the opportunity for children to talk when they need child assistant service or inform the NCPA Police investigation unit.