Stop ‘social sickness’ of child abuse

Have you ever been startled awake by what you thought was a scream in the night, your neighbour beating his child, but you turned over and went back to sleep?

Have you ever witnessed a child being beaten and looked the other way? Have you ever read about a child beating tragedy and, instead of blaming the perpetrator, you blamed the victim as a spoilt brat?

There’s been a cold, continuous string of violence against children – horrifying strangulations, beatings and even shootings. With each, we ask questions – but seldom do we ask the tough questions of ourselves or examine the culture of our community.

As we pause between May 28 and June 4 to consider National Child Protection Week under the theme, “Let us all protect children to move South Africa forward”, we should rededicate ourselves as a community to helping all our children live in order and security. Help them to live with a sense of control and the ability to develop self-regulation and positive, stable relationships.

Violence against children is ruining our children’s present and future lives, crippling their ability to become productive citizens and parents.

Researchers have confirmed that babies who grow up in chaotic, abusive homes, become adolescents and teenagers who oppress and abuse their girlfriends, and become girls who expect to be mistreated.

National Child Protection Week launched in Lusikisiki, O R Tambo District in our province, is marked annually across our country to raise awareness for the rights of children. It aims to mobilise all sectors of society to care for and protect children.

Child Protection Week allows us to shine a spotlight on children’s issues, highlight successes and identify what still needs to be done.

As we raise our awareness of the plight of victims in our community, it is critical to remember these victims walk among us each day. Family violence isn’t a crime that has a distinct beginning and end. Even when a child is emotionally and physically brutalised in their home, they still have to move through their lives each day.

Growing up in a violent home is a terrifying experience that can affect every aspect of a child’s life, growth and development. Psychologists have constantly warned us that children raised in violent homes are more likely to perpetrate violence or become the victim of domestic violence as adults. To end this cycle of violence and promote healthy families, we must ensure that communities have resources to prevent child abuse and provide victims of violence with the support they need.

The government has in the past few years worked to ensure that the constitution, legislation, policies, and international instruments are in place to provide statutory protection towards providing a better life for children.

The Children’s Act, which came into effect seven years ago and is administered by the Department of Social Development, sets out the principles relating to the care and protection of children, and defines the related parental responsibilities and rights.

The objectives of the Children’s Act are as follows;

lPromote the preservation and strengthening of families;

lGive effect to certain constitutional rights of children;

lGive effect to the Republic’s obligations concerning the well-being of children in terms of international instruments binding on the Republic;

lMake provision for structures, services and means for promoting and monitoring the sound physical, psychological, intellectual, emotional and social development of children;

lStrengthen and develop community structures which can assist in providing care and protection for children;

lProtect children from discrimination, exploitation and any other physical, emotional or moral harm or hazards;

lProvide care and protection for children who are in need of care and protection;

lRecognise the special needs that children with disabilities may have; and

lGenerally, to promote the protection, development and well-being of children.

Positive discipline without beating or abuse helps a child to grow with greater confidence. Their higher self-esteem also helps them behave better when they are away from their parents’ watchful eye faced with such challenges as drugs, alcohol and bullying.

As psychologists remind us, not every child who is hit turns into a bully, but ask every bully if they have been hit at home and we know what the answer would likely be. They say child beating is the first lesson in domestic abuse and that bullying is when someone with the power to do so, hit you and that you deserve it.

Child abuse, beating and violence is a social sickness. It destroys families and teaches violence to future generations. It’s often too easy to overlook it, turn the other way, regard it exclusively as a family matter, pretend we don’t have any responsibility. But if child abuse violence is going to be prevented, it’s all of us who will have to do it.

Phumulo Masualle is the Eastern Cape premier. Follow him on EC_Premier