Child abuse in the UK covers a wide range of acts against a child. According to Childline, Parents or carers can abuse a child physically, sexually or emotionally – all forms of abuse leave their marks on children, affecting them into adulthood, unless they receive therapy to address their abuse. Abused children can recover from their maltreatment – but they must be identified and placed in a safe setting.
About Abused Children in the UK
Children living in the UK experience different kinds of abuse, from physical to sexual. Many times, they are afraid to speak up about the treatment they receive at home, likely because their abuser has threatened them or a loved one with harm. Emotional abuse in children works to tear down a child’s self-confidence, making them feel worthless. Children forced into sexual relationships with adults or adult relatives are experiencing sexual abuse.
According to The Guardian, the British government has worked on increasing protection to children in the UK for over a century – beginning in 1889, Parliament passed the “Children’s Charter,” which allowed authorities to intervene in cases of suspected child abuse.
From this early beginning and up through 2004, different laws have been passed, all with the intent of closing loopholes and increasing the ability of local councils to protect children in danger of abuse. These efforts include electronic files and tracking of British abused children, directors of agencies created to protect children and increased flexibility in how different councils organize their children’s services offices. Increasing local flexibility allows a council to address child abuse issues unique to their area.
Emotional Abuse and UK Government Efforts to Prosecute
Emotional abuse is the persistent emotional mistreatment of a child. Over time, the effects of emotional abuse work to convince the child they have no worth. They know they will not be allowed to express themselves or their opinions. In fact, if they attempt to do so, they will be put down or made fun of. Parents in the UK can also emotionally abuse their children by expecting them to take on roles that are developmentally inappropriate for their age. Parents who hover or overprotect their children can also be charged and potentially found guilty of emotional abuse.
British parents who withhold love and positive regard from their children can be arrested and found guilty of emotional abuse. According to the Daily Mail, a proposed new law, called the “Cinderella Law,” would enable law enforcement and prosecutors to imprison parents and carers found guilty of emotional cruelty to a child. These adults could spend up to 10 years in prison.
Emotional abuse involves degrading a child, making them feel unloved and “deliberately” destroying a child’s ability to develop emotionally, intellectually, behaviorally and socially.
According to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, emotional abuse or maltreatment is also known as psychological abuse because of its ability to damage the ability of the child to develop normally. Emotional abuse of children in the UK is often, but not always a precursor to sexual or physical abuse. This is why Parliament is considering passing the Cinderella Law.
ºHumiliation or criticism.
º Making a child the butt of a joke.
º Threatening a child with words.
º Calling a child names.
º Forcing a child to complete degrading acts.
º Ignoring the limitations of a child.
º Controlling a child’s life, ignoring their individuality.
º Exposing the child to frightening events.
º Forbidding the child to have any friends.
º Not encouraging a child’s social development.
º Ignoring a child.
º Manipulating a child.
º Never speaking with love to a child.
º Withholding emotion from a child.
Symptoms of Emotional Abuse in Children
It isn’t easy to detect signs of abuse in children – you won’t be able to see physical signs, such as bruises. Instead, their behaviors may tip you off that something is wrong. In younger children, such as babies or preschoolers, you’ll see:
º Anxiety or a lack of confidence.
º Extreme affection toward relative strangers.
º Lack of a close relationship with the parents or carers.
º Aggression toward other children or animals.
º Are distant from parents.
º Seem to have knowledge of things that should be beyond their years.
º Have a hard time controlling strong emotions.
º Experience strong emotional outbursts.
º Have few social skills.
º Seem to have very few friends.
Physical Abuse in the UK
Children in the UK who experience physical abuse have been hurt deliberately by their parents or carers. These children will have visible signs of abuse. No matter what they say, these children have not been “accidentally” hurt. Their parents have hurt them on purpose by poisoning, kicking, burning or slapping them.
Parents seeking attention can make their child appear to be extremely ill by giving them medications or other substances they shouldn’t be taking. Physicians and social workers in the UK call this “fabricated or induced illness,” according to the NSPCC.
Non-accidental head injuries (NAHI) in young children and babies are not accidentally caused, despite what parents might claim. Instead, the child is thrown hard, shaken violently for several seconds, hit or thrown into a soft or hard surface.
Indicators of Physical Abuse in Children
Signs of physical abuse in children include:
º Giving accounts of causes of injuries that are inconsistent with the injuries.
º Injuries in body areas not normally exposed to falls.
º Lack of medical care for injuries.
º Bites, burns, bruises and fractures that can’t be explained away.
º Being reluctant to undress for games or swimming.
º Being very watchful.
Signs of Sexual Abuse in Children
Child sexual abuse is especially destructive to the child emotionally, physically and psychologically. Children have no control when they are being abused. In fact, all of the power rests in the hands of their abuser. Signs of sexual abuse in children include:
º Soreness and injuries around the mouth and genitals.
º Pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
º Acting out sexually.
º Sudden sleeping problems.
º Unusual secretiveness.
º Personality changes, insecurity and mood swings.
º Fear of particular people and places.
º Unexplainable change in eating habits.
º Anger outbursts.
º Using adult words for body parts.
º Having an older friend.
º Receiving unexplained money or gifts.
º Running away.
º Refusal to spend time alone with a particular young person.
º Bleeding or discharge from the anus, genitals or mouth.
º Painful, persistent pain during bowel movements and urination, according to Parents Protect.
Abused Children Stories in the UK
The NSPCC has collected several stories of abused children in the UK. Some of these include:
Peter and Caroline: This young teen couple gave birth to their baby, Alice. NSPCC was already involved with them, through their Minding the Baby program. Because of the parents’ concerns about being able to provide for Alice, Caroline was not emotionally present for the baby. While she provided for the baby’s physical needs, she didn’t interact much with her. She and Peter were taught how to put the baby’s emotional and physical needs over their own. Their worker helped them play with the baby, thus beginning to build the vital emotional bond that every baby needs with its parents. At the same time, the worker helped Caroline and Peter to become more confident that they could parent and raise Alice well.
Fiona became the victim of emotional abuse at the hands of her mother’s new boyfriend. The boyfriend was jealous of the close relationship that Fiona shared with her mother. In addition, he drank too much and abused her physically and mentally. Until Fiona would back away, crying, he wasn’t satisfied with her responses to his treatment.
Eventually, Fiona’s mother’s boyfriend controlled their relationship so much that, when Fiona and her mother were talking together, he would demand to know what they were talking about or force her mother to leave the room.
Maisie was normally a happy, friendly little girl. In her second year of school, she began to change, refusing to do her work and acting out in the classroom. Her mother noticed strange marks on her and she asked Maisie if anyone had ever touched her private areas. Maisie disclosed that an adult at the school and after school club had touched her. Her parents got her into therapy and reported the assault to social services.
Why Parents and Caregivers Abuse Children
Why do people abuse children in the UK? Abused children disclose all forms of abuse and, as the police and social service workers investigate, they find that the parents are emotionally unable to care for the child or that they, themselves have been abused.
Parents who abuse their children rarely regard their children positively. Their relationships are negative, according to Medical News Today.
When previously abused parents have children abuse of their own children may become an issue. These parents don’t know that they can raise their children differently. They blame their children for the abuse and may not express concern for them. They direct teachers to be stricter with their children. Most of all, they believe their children are burdens and worthless.
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