防止虐童 人人有责

Preventing child abuse is everyone’s responsibility

Huang Yimin Published in Lianhe Zaobao on 7 July 2024. Translated with Google Translate


Child abuse cases are heard from time to time. Children who are left alone and helpless will suffer serious physical and psychological damage. The World Health Organization divides child abuse into four categories: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional (or psychological) abuse, and neglect. If the school or neighbors notice that a child has trauma or emotional abnormalities, they should promptly inform the relevant authorities and provide assistance. Adler, a famous Austrian psychologist, said: “Happy people use their childhood to heal their entire life, while unhappy people use their entire life to heal their childhood.” If a child’s childhood is spent under the shadow of abuse by family members, the impact may even extend to the victim’s adult life. The various child abuse cases reported in the news recently have attracted public attention.

A 5-year-old girl, Aisha, and her brother were abused by their biological father for two years. The father imprisoned his children naked in the bathroom at home and only gave them two meals a day, so that the little girl and brother were so hungry that they ate their own feces and the stuffing in the mattress to fill their stomachs. The father, who had a background in martial arts, often punched and kicked Aisha, and Aisha eventually died because she could not withstand her father’s fists. The father was eventually sentenced to 34 and a half years in prison and 12 strokes of the cane. A divorced man chained his 13-year-old son to the toilet at least three times to punish him for lying and not doing his homework. He was also sentenced to two years in prison for beating his son because he was unhappy with his son’s contact with his ex-wife.

Parents are key figures
The World Health Organization classifies child maltreatment into four types: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional (or psychological) abuse, and neglect.

Zanthe Ng, founder and principal counsellor of One Empty Chair, a mental health practice, said: “Parents are key figures in child abuse cases. They may be facing life, work pressure or personal problems, or they may have been abused as children and suffered mental trauma. However, they should not repeat the same mistakes and vent their emotions on their children, which will affect their children’s physical and mental health and growth.” 

zanthe ng

A 9-year-old boy was withdrawn and unsociable at school, and always seemed anxious. His school uniform was dirty and smelled. During break time, he did not buy food because he did not have enough pocket money. His father was busy with work and had no time to take care of him. He had to wash his school uniform by himself, and sometimes he simply did not wash it. When his father was angry and punished him, he would make his son sleep in the corner of the house and hit him with things. The son loved and feared his father. In this case, the son faced physical and emotional abuse at the same time; the father neglected his child and ignored his basic needs in terms of hygiene and education.

A 15-year-old girl’s parents often quarreled, and her father was violent towards her mother, causing no peace in the family. When they quarreled, she hid under the covers. Her mother was also worried that her daughter would be beaten by her husband at any time. The girl hated her father, and even though she was not physically injured, it affected her mental health, which was considered emotional abuse.

(Note: In the interview, ages and identities, specific details in the case studies have been altered to protect the privacy of those involved.)

Four reactions to child abuse
The trauma that abused children face is sometimes invisible to the naked eye. Zanthe said that from a psychological perspective, when faced with stress, trauma and fear, the general reaction of children can be divided into four categories: fight, flight, freeze and fawn; in the medium and long term, it can affect the development of children’s personality.
Some victims are often beaten at home and may bully others when they grow up, which is a fighttype reaction; those who have a flight or freeze reaction do not know how to face the problem, are both frightened and panic, and want to escape from the predicament. Over time, their personalities will become introverted and withdrawn. Some children also have a please-the-pleasure reaction
when they are beaten or scolded by their parents, accepting it submissively or succumbing to power, often suffering greater physical and mental trauma, and some may even self-harm.