There is a way out

There is a way out

Many children face a variety of abuses, which often go unreported and unaddressed

Child abuse is widespread, but much of it goes on behind closed doors. Victims are often unwilling to seek help and witnesses are reluctant to speak up.

Don't be. Students can play an important role in fighting child abuse, says Priscilla Lui Tsang Sun-kai, director of Against Child Abuse.

According to Lui, there are four main types of child abuse: physical abuse, neglect, psychological abuse and sexual abuse. "If you see bruises [on someone] at multiple locations or forming a specific pattern, they are being physically abused," she said.

Neglect entails a lack of attention to a child's basic needs. It could be physical, medical, educational or emotional.

"If you see classmates wearing dirty uniforms and their hair or shoes are smelly, they could be signs of neglect [by parents]," Lui said. "Students who always stay after school or hang out in parks may also be victims of neglect. They may be trying to avoid returning to a troubled home."

A less obvious form of abuse is psychological abuse - a child is made to feel worthless, unwanted and unloved.

"To children, parents are everything in their lives. They may not know they are being abused. When parents ill-treat them they may blame themselves for misbehaving," said Dr Chow Chun-bong, chair of the Hong Kong Committee on Children's Rights.

Yet the effects of psychological abuse often have lasting consequences. They may end up suffering from anxiety or depression.

Victims of child abuse are also more likely to abuse their own children.

"Only about 1,000 cases of psychological abuse are reported a year, but I think the number is higher than that," Chow said.

"Society needs to be more aware of psychological abuse. Many parents may be doing it without realising it. They just want their children to do well."

Another under-reported form of abuse is sexual abuse. This may include everything from exposing children to indecent images or messages to sexual abuse.

Parents should make sure their children do not suffer any kind of abuse, Lui said.

"Letting parents know about their responsibilities and teaching them proper parenting skills is a great way to stop child abuse," she said.

"Schools can help educate parents about how to look after their children."



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