We are informed about the rise in statistics surrounding abuse of women and children, and are strongly urged to get involved with organisations that work in children and woman protection.
One of the ways we can become involved is to report if we see or suspect abuse. What do we look out for though, what are the signs that a woman or child is being abused?
Noting that although the following signs listed do not necessarily indicate that a child has been abused, they may help adults recognise that something is wrong. The possibility of abuse should be investigated if a child shows a number of these symptoms, or any of them to a marked degree:
1.1 PHYSICAL SIGNS
- Genital trauma
- Genital infections
- Public genital display
- Compulsive Masturbation
- Sexually transmitted infections
- Blood on underwear
- Blood, pain, itching in the genital area
- Tearing in the genital area
- Abnormal way of walking
- Broken bones
- Unexplained or ill explained recurrent injuries
- Bald patches
1.2 BEHAVIOURAL SIGNS
- Compulsive masturbation
- Sexualized play
- Sexualized kissing
- Changed behaviours
- Excessive clinging
- Extreme reactions, such as depression, self-mutilation, suicide attempts, running away, overdoses, anorexia
- Regressing to younger behaviour patterns such as thumb sucking or bringing out discarded cuddly toys
- Sudden loss of appetite or compulsive eating
- Being isolated or withdrawn
- Become worried about clothing being removed
- Suddenly drawing sexually explicit pictures
- Improbable excuses or refusal to explain injuries
- Wearing clothes to cover injuries, even in hot weather
- Chronic running away
- Fear of medical help or examination
- Aggression towards others
- Fear of physical contact - shrinking back if touched
- Admitting that they are punished, but the punishment is excessive (such as a child being beaten every night to 'make him study')
- Sudden speech disorders
- Continual self-depreciation ('I'm stupid, ugly, worthless, etc')
- Overreaction to mistakes
- Extreme fear of any new situation
- Inappropriate response to pain ('I deserve this')
- Neurotic behaviour (rocking, hair twisting, self-mutilation)
- Extremes of passivity or aggression
- Fear of suspected abuser being contacted
1.3 EMOTIONAL SIGNS
- Overly adaptive behaviour
- Developmental lags
- Low self esteem
- Lack of trust
Now that you are aware of what the signs and symptoms of abuse are, you should know who to contact if you suspect a child of being abused.
The following are a list of contact numbers of organizations within the metro:
If you do not reside within the Eastern Cape, then you can contact your local police station and report the abuse with them.
Let us look at what happens during the reporting process.
Any person who believes that a child is in need of care and protection may report that belief to the provincial department of social development, a designated child protection organisation, like Uviwe, or a police official.
If you report your concerns in good faith it is not liable to civil action on the basis of the report, individuals also have the choice to report anonymously.
A police official must then ensure the safety and well-being of the child if his or her safety is at risk and within 24 hours notify the provincial department of social development or a designated child protection organisation of the report.
A social worker within an organisation like Uviwe Child and Youth Services will interview the child to reaffirm the disclosure of abuse. If the abuse is confirmed it is the responsibility of the social worker to firstly ensure the physical and emotional safety of the child concerned, then to investigate the allegations and make recommendations as to possible criminal charges being laid, placement of the child or safety measures will be taken.
Uviwe and other child protection organisations always take the child’s best interest to heart, that is why the therapeutic process is so important for the child to begin the journey towards healing and recovery.
It takes a whole community to raise a child, so take your stand and protect a vulnerable child from being exploited by reporting abuse to your local police or child protection organisation.
Speak up and act against abuse!