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.
Emotional abuse although not as easy to detect as other signs of abuse, can be as harmful to a child, in some cases more harmful. The law is very vague with regards to emotional abuse unlike other forms of abuse. However this type of behaviour is something Social Services are very familiar with and have the ability to act upon, under the best interests of the child.
Constant belittling or criticising a child or someone they care for slowly erodes any self-worth or confidence the child may have. As the child may not know any difference to this form of behaviour, in older life the same child may continue this cycle with their own children unless treatment is forthcoming.
Other forms of abuse especially physical will incorporate some form of emotional abuse along with it. Unlike physical abuse where scars or bruises are present, the psyche of the child is much more difficult to check with regards anti-social learned behaviour or emotional distress.
In some cases the only sign that a child has emotional problems, is due to the way they act or socialise, however too often this is diagnosed as some form of personality disorder or ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) which doesn't really treat the problems sufficiently.
Why are children emotionally abused ?
There are a number of reasons why a child may be emotionally 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 go along with another form of abuse.
The venting of anger through emotionally distressing language.
Due to consumption of alcohol, drugs etc... that has caused the abuser to become abusive.
During discipline a child may be emotionally abused, rather than educated.
During conflict with another adult or child within the child's vicinity.
Due to stress or anger, this may be taken out verbally towards a child or in the vicinity of a child.
Taking illegal substances or harming in the presence of a child, this can cause distress to the child who is present.
Symptoms of emotional abuse
Victim feelings & behaviour
Feelings of uselessness, that you cannot do anything right.
Belief that what your abuser is doing, is the way to act.
Being embarrassed in front of family, friends or acquaintances for your abusers behaviour towards you.
Feelings of anger and resentment both towards self and abuser.
Feelings of shame and self loathing.
Withdrawn from social situations
Fear or anxious of doing something wrong
Constantly trying to appease
Constantly looking for appraisal
Extreme behaviour such as extreme anger or extremely passive traits
No general attachment to the perpetrator
Fear of being around the perpetrator
Putting on a persona (Acting the way the perpetrator describes you, such as more childlike, less intelligent, joking around etc...)
Getting bullied or bullying others
Talking sexually in front of a child.
Punishing a child for social interaction or experiences.
Calling names or constant belittling.
Shouting and swearing.
Extreme responces to minor behaviour.
Threatening abandonment such as 'Naughty children's home' or 'Threats to remove them from the house'.
Destroying a childs possessions.
Threatening to or hurting a pet, animal or someone the child cares about.
Ridiculing the child in public or in front of others.
Not showing a child affection or showing inconsistent emotion.
Constantly changing boundaries.
Shouting at others in the presence of the child.
Striking or hitting others in the presence of the child.
Showing extreme emotion in front of a child, such as upset or anger.
Belittling those the child cares about, or poisoning a child with verbal comments.
Reasons for not reporting emotional abuse
Felt normal behaviour, dont 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.
Unsure on legality.
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.