Prior to writing this article, I had a conversation with a friend regarding my strong desire to write about child abuse. He looked at me with a look of utter dismay. When I asked what the matter was, he responded, “What do you know about child labor? You’ve barely ever been exposed to such matters.” This was exactly why I chose this topic in the first place. The term “Child Abuse” is not exactly a well-defined one in our society, as I have also found that people don’t believe it is an issue in the city. I am no expert in the topic, so I will merely point out my observations. Is our future in jeopardy?
Children (age <18), those little versions of full grown adults whose purity and innocence just beams up a certain light within us, whom we shamelessly make faces and sounds at just to make them smile, who tend to be so naughty for they know not whether it is right or wrong. It is the lack of such a distinction that makes them so fragile, waking the protective nature of most people. At times however, this is also taken as an opportunity by certain adults to inflict harm and abuse.
Child abuse takes on many forms as one might have heard. The first form of child abuse to address is Physical Abuse, where an adult causes non-accidental physical injury to a child. This form of abuse is more common in our society, since the use of a pinch, slap or a whip were/are often the choice of negative reinforcement by parents or guardians. If a teenager is acting up, we would hear the phrase, “tenqotita yaladegech” (raised without having been pinched). I still hear that this is the best form of instilling good behavior in a child, yet it is considered “primitive” in developed countries and I agree. Though is omitting the occasional pinch really a good idea? I do tend to be grateful at times for having been…corrected as a child. Shows like “Nanny…..” fascinate me as the situation would have totally been different if a child acted so spoiled in Ethiopia. What are your thoughts? To punish or not to punish physically?
Child labor is also quite common in our country. We see children working as maids and errand boys in the homes of many in the city, or as farmers and day laborers in rural homes. Most of these activities take a toll on the feeble developing bodies of children, and are therefore, forms of physical child abuse. I once met a beautiful little girl, age 7, who sold chewing gum in the streets of Addis. She did so after a morning in the 1st grade at school. She would return to her “home” under a bridge where her mother and baby sister remain. The income this little girl would make, in addition to the alms extended to her mother on the streets are all they have to feed their little family. If you were to offer the little girl any money other than payment for a chewing gum, she will refuse as it has not been earned! Now compare your life at the age of 7 to this little girl’s.
Child Neglect is also a form of child abuse that I must mention. This is when the child does not receive necessities from their caregivers. A child could be neglected because the caregiver does it deliberately, is unable to provide or is just irresponsible. An example would be, the many homeless children we see in the streets of Addis.
Then there is the ever detrimental Child Sexual abuse. It pains me to notice how little our knowledge is regarding this issue. Child sexual abuse occurs when an adult uses or involves a child in sexual acts.A fact that we should all know regarding child sexual abuse is that the attacking adult is almost always someone the child knows. In most cases, that means a family member. Add to this the famous Ethiopian hospitality that brings home people we barely know while encouraging children to be as hospitable, if not more, to these very strangers. I am sure most of us have a relative living in our families’ homes. Now bear in mind the unlimited access these people have to the children in the house, if any.
Another important fact is that child sexual abuse is rarely ever reported. How would a child who: has always been told to speak when spoken to, to leave the room when the adults are talking, who is whipped for reasons undisclosed, feel comfortable enough to tell any adult that someone they trust has been touching them inappropriately?
In association to the forms of child abuse mentioned above will have existed Emotional Abuse. The mental and social development of a child would be hindered or harmed by an adult in these cases. Emotional Abuse could be seen in many practices, but when the previously mentioned forms of child abuse exist, emotional abuse probably co-exists.
Of course, the children are not responsible for the harm they are subjected to. Individual and societal factors lead to the maltreatment of a child. Children with disabilities, autism, with non-biological guardians, perhaps with exposure to an aggressive community, are more susceptible to variations of child abuse.Child abuse could result from acting, or failing to act a certain way, hence, causing harm to said child. A child is to be cared for physically and emotionally. These are often deeds carried out by people who share certain genetic ties with the youngling like parents and relatives, or by the guardian of the child. However, there are so many factors that play immense roles such as the financial status, age, mental status, substance abuse, tradition and the likes on the side of the guardian regarding their responsibilities.
I have seen autistic children caged up or in chains like animals, non-biological guardians banning adopted children from going to school and putting them to labor, I have heard the confessions of young adult girls who have been sexually assaulted as children and are now depressed to see their attacker roam freely, I constantly see homeless children on the streets, and so I wrote this article in tears.Therefore, it is unacceptable to think that child abuse is barely an issue in the city or the country as a whole. I implore you all to perceive your surroundings. Child abuse certainly prevails in our country, and only when we acknowledge its existence and deleterious effects, can we work on tackling the issue. By engaging your senses, notice a child’s pain and don’t pass up an opportunity to help a child, to be the adult they need and take charge of the situation and prevent the abuse of our children, our future.
By Yordanos Wolde