Manifestations of child abuse are not limited to physical or sexual abuse. We often fail to consider a similarly perilous abuse which is the psychological or emotional abuse, an abuse whose consequences can be as devastating as sexual or physical abuse.
The broad categories of psychological abuse include:
Verbal Abuse – Usage of reproachful or belittling words like idiot, useless, stupid can inflict impairment to the child’s mental health and self-esteem. The toxic words linger in the psyche and can cause psychiatric disorders in childhood and/or adulthood. Though parents may consider it casual to use such words, the repercussions of such vocabulary is serious.
Neglect – This includes instances such as not attending to the child when in pain or injury, neglecting their visible bruises, repeatedly shoving their feelings and expressions as trivial or insignificant. This form of abuse is can be present regardless of the social/economic strata of the family, although it is more common with belligerent parents, parents battling mental illness or substance abuse and workaholic parents absent from home for long. This form of abuse though is not deliberate but circumstantial certainly very detrimental to the child’s personality.
Covert Incest – This needn’t necessarily involve sexual touching, but occurs when child the parent discusses matters like sex with the child prematurely, comments on the growing differences that occur as the child’s body matures. Watching pornographic videos, images or films in the presence of the child or discussing sexual matters, reading similar material aloud hampers the child’s psyche and effects his/her sexual functioning in adulthood.
Humiliation – Degrading the child before an audience for their shortcomings or not so successful performance at sports, academics, co-curricular activities etc. can devastate the child’s personality resulting in fear of participation, hesitation to meet the people before whom the child was insulted. Again the anxiety to confront any challenge or people persists in adulthood. Most parents trivialize this form of abuse under the veil of humour and justify by saying I was joking” or I didn’t know you would be hurt”. Some parents do not pay head or even fail to notice that the child is hurt.
As parents and guardians let’s recognise these unobserved or overlooked forms of abuse, curb them and provide our children a physically, mentally and emotionally sound environment.