Child abuse is a severe problem. Every now and then, a case or two pops up and hits the headlines but the fevered attention usually dies down quickly.
However, such abuses continue in our communities.
How could parents inflict violence on their own children?
I am no sociologist or psychologist but I hope readers will be inspired by the Confucian philosophy of caring for the young.
The form and severity of child abuse vary according to age.
Sexual abuse is more likely to happen during adolescence (10-16 years).
Fortunately, adolescents are more capable of protecting themselves and are more likely to seek help.
Abuse against children under 10 often goes unnoticed but teachers, social workers and parents of their classmates can help spot the problem.
The most vulnerable group is pre-school children under five who spend most of the time at home and are too young to say no to violence.
The victims are often identified only after a traumatic abuse.
Hence, the earlier we take action, the greater harm can be prevented on these children.
There are many causes of child abuse.
In the first place, having a happy family is no easy task. Couples may be under enormous pressure for work, financial and social reasons.
Unplanned pregnancy or the birth of an unhealthy child poses extra burdens to inexperienced parents.
Adults who may have been abused as a child are also likely to have a greater tendency to inflict harm on family members.
Parents who fail to control their emotions might unleash their anger or frustrations on their children, causing permanent harm to them.
A video that has gone viral on the internet shows a five or six-year-old girl kneeling before her mother in the street, begging for forgiveness.
If the situation is authentic, the child might have been suffering from abuse.
A seven-year-old girl found in a vegetative state is another case in point.
The parents have been arrested. The issue is unsettling and raises the question of whether anything could have been done to prevent the situation.
How should we help?
Professionals such as family doctors and social workers should stay alert for suspected child abuse.
However, their help is limited because they are not likely to be able to give timely assistance.
In fact, to tackle child abuse, every one of us has to be a Good Samaritan.
It’s often neighbors who can spot problems next door.
Also, callers to parent-child support hotline Against Child Abuse are often relatives or friends of the abused children, according to data.
If they suspect child abuse, relatives, friends and neighbors can engage the parent by asking some non-sensitive questions such as “Do you have any difficulties teaching your children?” or “How are your kids?”
Good neighbors can also pay attention to the daily condition of the children, judging from their health, behavior or appearance.
The situation can be alarming when children go unseen for some time.
In case of emergency, report the matter to teachers, social workers or organizations such as Against Child Abuse and the police.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept. 17.
Translation by Darlie Yiu
Vegetative girl nowhere in sight during visits, say volunteers (Sept. 9, 2015)
Tiger Mom unmoved as little girl bows down to say sorry (Jul. 31, 2015)
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