CHILD ABUSE – IT’S EVERYBODY’S PROBLEM.
A contributor post by Ricky van der Walt
Today’s children become tomorrow’s leaders. When we ignore the many forms of abuse directed towards the youth, we do so at our own peril.
All it takes is a glance at social media to encounter adults who believe that the world doesn’t owe one anything, and that we’re all 100% responsible for our own destinies. That may be true for those who have been fortunate enough to have been raised in happy environments where there were enough positive reinforcements. But what if one’s formative years were marred with abuse? How can we expect that abused child to magically develop the same coping mechanisms and self esteem as the child who didn’t have these negative experiences? The harsh truth is that we cannot. We must understand that we are all shaped by our experiences, and that some have a disadvantage when it comes to dealing with life because of the burdens they bear.
Society cannot afford to dismiss this disadvantage as someone else’s problem. Abuse doesn’t distinguish between race, gender, income group, religion or geography. If it’s happening in your neighbourhood, the ripple effect will eventually affect you too. When communities are made up of broken individuals, it makes sense that the community will also be broken.
So is there a solution?
Frederick Douglass said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
Douglass was an African American statesman who escaped slavery in the 1800’s. He went on to become a prominent humanitarian and political figure in the movement to abolish the practice. If anyone knew the importance of drawing from a solid sense of self to rise above one’s circumstances, it was him.
The solution lies in cultivating strong children who aren’t victim to the many forms abuse takes – be it sexual, physical, mental or even bullying. Each and every one of us need to re-evaluate our interactions with others. Are we abusers or bullies? Are we a safe haven for those who need help? Our children are watching us, and our day to day behaviour will establish whether they feel comfortable enough to turn to us should they ever need help.
And children DO need our help! In South Africa only 19% of child abuse cases are referred to the police by social services. Of that 19% only 2% resulted in convictions, due to a backlog of on average 18 months in investigations. Therefore it’s upon US to take charge of the welfare of the next generation.
– Have honest and open discussions with your children about appropriate vs inappropriate physical contact.
– Make sure to never shame and ridicule victims of abuse or bullying in front of children. Remember that the child will assume that if you shame others, you will shame them if they ask for help.
– Talk to your child about bullying, and make sure that your child isn’t a bully. Bullying creates a toxic environment where children learn to tolerate abuse. Once that behaviour is learnt, it paves the way for them to also keep quiet about other forms of abuse.
The world we live in is getting more and more connected, and the electronic filter we view it through often makes us numb to the plight of others. We lose sight of the atrocities that are happening in our immediate vicinities – the ones we can actually prevent. Let’s self organize, support and educate ourselves and our youth so that we can all enjoy the fruits of an uplifted society.
Ricky van der Walt is a #MiniMeToo supporter who is very vocal about the need for society to take responsibility.
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