The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention defines
Child Abuse as “child maltreatment and any act or series
of acts of commission or omission by a parent or other
caregiver that results in harm, potential for harm, or
threat of harm to a child”.
Child Abuse is any mistreatment of a child either
physically, emotionally or sexually. It could include
neglect of such child.
Aside the physical, emotional and sexual abuse, other
types of child abuse common in Nigeria are child
marriage, child labour and child trafficking.
It is worthy to know that abuse of a child can happen
anywhere – at home, school, community or any other
environment the child finds himself or herself. It can also
happen at any time and make the child become a shadow
of himself or herself.
Although sexual child abuse is more common in female
children, male children are also exposed to abuse from
other females including aunties, older cousins, house
helps or even senior students in the schools.
If sexual abuse happens, how can society help
the victimised child?
According to the Executive Director of Child Emergency
Relief Foundation, Mrs. Abosede Oyeleye, “the first step
to helping an abused child is to recognize the signs.”
What are the signs to watch out for?
When a child unusually begins to get to school early, his
teachers are impressed and they think it is a sign of the
child moving forward.
Unfortunately, this could be a sign of a child suffering
from abuse. School closes; the child stays back and is not
eager to return home.
In school and other environments, the child appears to be
withdrawn, passive and overly compliant to rules and
regulations, which is unusual for children.
The child has problems focusing and learning which is not
as a result of any physical or psychological cause. As a
result of this, the child’s school performance deteriorates
because he or she is dealing with something that is not
very obvious.
A psychological effect of abuse on a child is the
permanent fear alert. He is in a constant state of being
scared and expecting some unpleasant event to happen.
An abused child develops an inferiority complex and
refuses to trust people who are willing to render help and
assistance. The child, unlike most other children becomes
less prone to collecting candies and biscuits from people.
Generally, a child’s behaviour changes and adults around
think that he or she has turned a new leaf and become a
better child who is less troublesome and less hyperactive.
Eventually, an individual who suffered sexual abuse as a
child may end up having issues with his or her sexuality.
They may thus become homosexuals who have lost faith
in the opposite sex.
Oyeleye believes that: “if just one sign is identified, this
does not mean abuse has been occurring. Some children
may appear to display more than one sign and has not
been abused.”
How to help a child that has been abused
There are various ways an abused child can be rescued or
saved from further abuse. They include:
Helping the child through the healing process until he is
able to independently get over the trauma and
confidently talk about it.
Never blame a child who has been victimised by calling
them ridiculous names.
Never make the child feel like he or she is of no value.
Helping such child to regain her confidence by taking her
to a crisis centre where she can undergo psychological
therapy to heal her wounded individuality and self
If you notice a child has been abused and you get him or
her to open up to you based on grounds of trust, don’t
betray his trust.
When talking with an abused child, the best thing you can
provide is calm reassurance and unconditional support.
Let your actions speak for you. If you’re having trouble
finding the right words, remember that talking about the
situation may be difficult for the child. Thus, it is the job
of the counsellor and confidant to assure the child of a
bright future.
Do not probe or interrogate the victim. Reassure the child
that they did nothing wrong.
One of such numerous ways is special support and
treatment as early as possible. Listen to everything
including nonsense that such child has to say once he
makes up his mind to talk to you. This will make him/her
more comfortable and getting over the incident will be a
lot easier.
Safety of the counsellor, the victim and the victim’s family
must also be put into consideration. If there is a problem
with security, the healing process should be left to
professionals to handle (professionals include non-
governmental organizations that are experienced in
handling such cases, the police and other law
enforcement agents). Such cases could be reported to
them and they can take over the situation from where it
becomes dangerous.
Abuse is more than bruises or broken bones, it needs to
be handled with lot of care and the earlier the victim gets
help the greater chance they have to heal.
No matter the age, an abused child never forgets the
unpleasant incident even after he/she heals.



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