Why We Need to Stand Up for Children Who Can’t Stand Up for Themselves
‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me’ is no longer true in our society when the number of emotionally abused children has increased by as much as 85% in some Australian states.
According Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Child protection Australia 2014-15, in the year 2014-15 emotional abuse was the most common form of abuse substantiated for children. 42,457 substantiated cases of abuse and neglect, and 43% of this number made up of emotional abuse cases. In 2014–15, there were 320,200 reports made to child protection services in Australia.
As part of Child Protection week 4th – 10th September Act for Kids invites all Australians to play their part to promote the safety and well being of children and young people.
Dr Katrina Lines, Executive Director of Services, Act for Kids says; “Sadly, these statistics only tell us about the traumatic stories of children who told someone what was happening, or where an adult spoke up about what was happening to a child,”
“Many more children are living in situations where they are harmed and exploited by adults and no one notices or does anything to help. “Act for Kids is an organisation which does just that – we act to keep children safe and to ensure they have safe, happy childhoods. We provide early educational experiences for young children to help prevent harm from occurring and specialised integrated therapy services for children who have experienced abuse and neglect.”
Dr Lines states that 45% of 18-34 year olds say they were emotionally abused as children and a third of people over 45 say the same.
Act for Kids says that a child is abused every thirteen minutes in Australia. Since 1988 Act for Kids has provided free therapeutic support for thousands of kids and families and there are still many more who need urgent assistance right now.
Emotional abuse comes in many forms says Lines, including inappropriate discipline, withholding affection, experiencing domestic violence and not meeting a child’s emotional needs.
Dr Katrina Lines says that emotional abuse prevents a child’s brain from developing appropriately and has a profound effect on a child’s well-being and development, including speech and language, social function, emotional well-being and their ability to engage and function at school. She says that without intervention these children are significantly at risk of drug and substance abuse problems, mental health issues, eating disorders and are unlikely to achieve employment in their adult years.
She says if a child informs you they feel unsafe or something bad is happening to them, believe them. “It is our experience that children don’t make up stories of being abused or neglected and majority od adults don’t do anything when children talk to them. Our research shows that 1 in 10 people wait and see if it gets worse before reporting anything and only 1 in 4 would talk to the child’s parents or care givers”
If a child has a change in behaviour, is anxious becomes withdrawn, doesn’t want to participate in activities anymore, has started to wet the bed or their sleeping and eating patterns have changed, Dr Lines says these are all signs of possible emotional abuse.