Within the UK child abuse is defined as someone causing significant harm to another person under the age of 18years old. A child can be abused in many different forms the most common forms of abuse are listed below and will be covered separately:
Child abusers are not limited to persons over the age of 18, other children can also be the perpetrators of abuse this includes among others friends, bullies or even family members. The majority of abusers are not strangers, this can put added pressure on the child to remain silent or to not 'Rock the boat' as some would say. This does not mean strangers will not abuse, but are rather less likely.
Although not an excuse, not all child abusers realise they are doing harm to a child, or realise that they are abusing at all. Stress and other life events may cause someone to strike or lash out at a child, causing serious physical or emotional harm. A parent or guardian that crosses the line between discipline and abuse, may not realise they have done harm to a child.
This however doesn't matter once that line has been crossed it cannot be undone, permanent damage or emotional scarring may already have been done to the child. It may only take one act of abuse to a child to initiate a negative response, may this be physical or emotional damage. Unfortunately it doesn't usually stop there, cycles of abuse will generally follow with each cycle becoming worse and affecting the child further until action is taken to prevent re-occurrence.
Physical abuse involves making physical contact with a child, this can be intentional or unintentional, can involve direct contact or contact through another physical object such as belt or even a child's toy, any object what-so-ever that can be used as a weapon no matter how small. In most instances whatever is around or handy at the time is used as the object of harm, however a single item that is designated as a punishment tool can also be used such as a cane, belt, stick etc...
A child may blame themselves for the abuse, or those that are unable to protect them, such as a second parent, those of authority or responsibility to look after the child's well-being.
In responce to discipline, UK law states that 'reasonable chastisement' under the 'Childrens Act 2004, Section 58' is acceptable, such as a light smack to the legs, nothing more than a temporary reddening of the skin. This can only be performed for discipline purposes and performed solely by parents or those acting as a parent on behalf of the child, classed as 'loco parentis'. This however does not include places or people that are barred otherwise from doing so, such as schools, hospitals and many other groups or organisations where a child may attend.
Why are children physically abused?
There are a number of reasons why a child may be physically abused, although not extensive some of the reasons are:
Learned behaviour, living in a dysfunctional or abusive family can make it seem normal behaviour.
To gain control or power over the victim.
Discipline that has overstepped the boundary to abuse.
The venting of anger through violence or threats using the victim as a punch bag to relieve stress.
'Cinderella Effect', a stepfather attacking a child that is not his, for this reason.
Due to consumption of alcohol, drugs etc... that has caused the abuser to harm a child.
Problems controlling anger.
Culture differences, what is normal in another country is not necessarily acceptable elsewhere.
Symptoms of physical abuse
Victim feelings & behaviour
Change of behaviour when the abuse starts.
Inability to speak out or avoiding topics, due to fear of being attacked.
Feeling of uselessness, that you cannot do anything right.
Belief that what your abuser is doing, is deserved in some way.
Feelings of anxiety around your abuser or entirely loss of any emotional feelings.
Being embarrassed in front of family, friends or acquaintances for your abusers behaviour towards you.
Obsessed with trying to appease.
Feelings of anger and resentment both towards self and abuser.
Loss of own opinion, beliefs or behaviours.
Withdrawal from previously happy situations or from those close to the victim.
Feelings of shame and self loathing.
Becoming obsessed with revenge.
Feelings of anxiety or that of walking on eggshells when the abuser is in sight or mentioned.
Kicking, striking or punching.
Being burnt, biten or scratched.
Being struck with an object such as stick, belt or toy.
Being pushed or thrown.
Made to swallow a dangerous substance, alcohol, drugs or medicine (Medicine that is not for the vctim).
Restraining with excess force, causing bruises.
Shaking or suffocating.
Reasons for not reporting physical abuse
Felt normal behaviour, don't know any difference.
Fear of reprisals if a complaint is made.
No self-esteem and feelings of self loathing.
Fear of exclusion or isolation.
Fear of not being believed.
The not knowing what happens if a complaint is made.
Unsure how to complain or get help.
Feelings of self blame and self loathing.
Blackmail or threats made to prevent me complaining.
Will others hurt me more if I do complain.
Fear it will break the family apart, or the blame of a breakdown in relationship.
Belief it will never happen again.
The person is someone who I rely on.
Scared of repercussions, will the abuser be sent to prison.