Children who come forward on their own to report abuse should be treated with respect and not face judgmental remarks, says a psychologist.
PETALING JAYA: A paediatrician has called for teachers and others who deal with young children to be trained to recognise signs of child abuse, after police said last week that parents were responsible for half the abuse cases reported.
Dr Irene Cheah of the Malaysian Paediatric Association also called for greater efforts against drug abuse and alcoholism, which she said were contributing factors to child abuse.
However, the primary focus on preventing child abuse would be to educate children and society at large about what constituted abuse so they could be aware of when physical discipline became abusive or when a physical touch was inappropriate.
Those who deal with children must learn to recognise signs such as bruises, burn marks, pinch marks, and other injuries as indications of physical abuse.
Other indicators would include a change in the child’s physical appearance, behaviour and academic performance.
“The child will have poor self-esteem, always feeling shame or guilt, and may also experience poor relationships with their peers,” Cheah told FMT.
Hyperactivity, anxiety, deterioration in school performance and eating disorders were other symptoms.
Psychologist Usha Ponnudurai said children who came forward on their own with claims of abuse should be treated with respect and not be faced with judgemental remarks such as “you shouldn’t feel that way” or “you may be too sensitive”, or that the parents “were just trying to discipline you”.
Last week, senior police officer Siti Kamsiah Hassan said parents were responsible for 1,505 of the 3,264 child abuse cases reported since 2018. The other perpetrators included babysitters, domestic workers, teachers, and the girlfriend or boyfriend of a child’s parent.
Usha said teachers should take note of excessive crying, increased absenteeism, social reclusiveness, poor anger management and even a preoccupation with sexual topics.
“Spotting one sign does not necessarily confirm the diagnosis of abuse. However, it does mean that more information is needed. The sign detected is a red flag,” she said.