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Abuse Is Abuse

Hush-a-bye, baby, on the treetop
When the wind blows the cradle will rock:
When the bough breaks the cradle will fall, 
Down will come baby, cradle and all.

Every child has a right to a clean, safe, happy environment. Children are entrusted to our care to be protected. They depend on adults during their formative years for the necessities of living. When we fail to keep our children healthy and safe, we have compromised the next generation.

Nature’s plan is that one generation takes care of the next generation. The person who brings a child into this world is responsible for her care and well-being until she’s able to fend for herself.

Somewhere along the line, our society has gotten off the track. There are hundreds of reasons for this, none of which are valid. If civilization is to last, we have to get back on the track.
It is the task of parents to teach, train and raise a child to adulthood. The design is that children grow into responsible adults and take their rightful place in the community.

Death is the natural end of everyone’s life, but many children die prematurely. They never get the chance to be educated, to enjoy a good movie or share a laugh with a good friend, and this is because of their parents’ stress or frustration. The parents express their rage by abusing someone close to them.

What is Abuse?
The dictionary defines abuse as:

•  misuse,
•  an unjust or corrupt practice,
•  abusive words, insults.

Similar words that express abuse are mistreatment, ill-treated, force, evil, curse, disrespect, disapproval or debauch. Abuse can be said in many different ways. 

Abusive is defined as insulting, criticizing harshly or angrily. Abusive is any behavior that is designed to control and subjugate another human being through the use of fear, humiliation and verbal or physical assaults. It is the persecution of one person by another. 

The definition of child abuse varies from culture to culture, and it changes with time. The behavior and development of a baby is universal, but reactions and child-rearing practices are different in different parts of the world. What one culture considers abuse may be the norm in another culture.

The purpose of this book is to concentrate on the maltreatment of the child in the United States. But practices in other cultures at other times, though not considered abusive by contemporary standards, may well fall into this category under our present standards.

Infanticide, or murdering an infant soon after its birth, was considered a form of population control in places like Africa and China. A girl child, one twin or a deformed child were candidates for this extreme measure. Because of different values about beauty, a girl’s feet were bound in China. This practice was banned in 1911, but it continued in some places into the 1940s. An elongated skull was thought to be handsome in New Guinea, and so infants had their heads bound in bark cloth at birth. Some of the customs were cosmetic, especially the piercing of the septum and the earlobes. The cutting off of a girl’s finger joints was done in connection with mourning. The joint was removed to pacify ghosts.

Some cultures arranged the marriage of their young girls and boys. Ceremonial circumcision and clitoridectomy is still practiced in some parts of the world.

Underdeveloped nations have no prenatal or postnatal care. There are no vaccination or immunization programs, and malnutrition of the child is normal. Somalia is only one example of such a place.

One Polynesian and European practice that bordered on the abusive was early toilet training. A child who was too young to understand was exposed to ridicule and punishment. A rigid feeding schedule can also be considered abusive.

Abandonment of a child, whatever the age, has been and still is a frequent happening in many parts of the world. We’ve seen in this country many cases of infants abandoned hours after birth. The mother is usually an unwed girl who does not wish to raise the child. Sometimes the baby is put in a trash bin; some lucky ones have been retrieved and taken to a safe haven. Other times the baby is placed in someone’s car where she will be easily discovered and taken to the hospital. 

Another form of abandonment occurs when a child is left alone for a long period of time, or when, say, a nine year-old is put in charge of younger children. A nine year-old does not have the experience or temperament for this responsibility.

Some children are robbed of their childhood by being thrust into an adult role. This can be a beauty contest, ballet lessons or theatrical parts. Many child movie stars grow up in an atmosphere not based in reality. They miss out on simple childhood experiences. Their every wish is catered to, and when they become adults, they are unable to cope with adult problems.

Corporal punishment, such as caning, is still done in some cultures. Caning can rip the skin apart. We are all aware of the caning of an American boy in Singapore in 1994. Corporal punishment is frowned upon in most other parts of the world.

Many children who are handicapped are abused and taunted by other children. Children can be cruel to someone they consider to be “different”. 

Child abuse can take many forms. It can consist of yelling, ear pulling, name-calling, spanking, and all are done under the guise of disciplining the child. Some abuse is not even recognized as abuse.

For many families, discipline means punishment. Sometimes a swat on the bottom is the only thing that will get a child’s attention. Some families are simply disciplining their children the same way they were disciplined. “My dad would beat me with his belt, and the harder I cried, the harder he would hit me,” so goes the reasoning. To many of us, this kind of punishment sounds like abuse.

So what is abuse? Who says what it is and what it is not? Where does punishment end and abuse begin? Whose measuring stick is used to determine this?

There are three kinds of abuses:

1.  Physical
2.  Sexual
3.  Emotional

Child abuse differs from culture to culture. There is no universally accepted standard for child rearing. While the Western world does not approve of physically harsh rites of passage, cultures in the Eastern world do not approve of a young child sleeping alone.

A culture that values its children because they will continue the family line is likely to treat children well. Children are also valued for their economic contribution to the household. Today, especially in the Western world, the economic contribution of the child is less valued, and the child is seen as an expensive consumer. The cost of raising a child today is enormous.

A cultural group may value the child, but not all children. Retarded, deformed, illegitimate, step children or children with behavior that is reminiscent of someone else are sometimes not accepted.

Different cultures vary in their expectations of the child. Some people do not consider a child competent until the age of reason, which is seven, and so they place no demands on the child. They think punishment before that age is pointless. Many cultures have a shared responsibility for the child. It's as if all grown-ups are aunts and uncles. It assures that there is always someone to look after the child. The burden of childcare is shared.

Modernization and the working mother have placed the care of small children in the hands of strangers instead of family.

It is important for all those concerned with children's welfare to keep in mind cultural differences and respect the child’s pride and rights.

There are many actions that can be considered abusive. Some of these are pinching, teasing, name-calling, spanking and threatening. Some may not appear abusive, but they are.