Prevention and Response to Child Abuse
Child abuse can take many different forms, such as physical abuse, child neglect, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse. A first step in helping abused or neglected children is to learn the symptoms of child abuse. While no one symptom alone indicates abuse, two or more symptoms may indicate possible abuse and should cause you to take a closer look.
What Temples Can Do To Prevent and Respond to Child Abuse
When child abuse occurs in our communities it gets our attention, and it should also serve as a catalyst for action.
Temples must assure that abuse of children will not be tolerated or ignored. The temple can demonstrate its commitment to providing a safe, secure place for children emotionally, physically, and spiritually, by seriously addressing the need to develop and implement an ongoing educational plan for the congregation and its leaders on the reality of child abuse, risk factors leading to child abuse, and strategies for prevention.
Strategies for Child Protection include:
Know the Facts – The Law and Your Liabilities
Child abuse is criminal behavior and is punished severely in every state, although each state and/or country has its own specific legal definition. You should know the laws and responsibilities that apply to managers and clergy of your state or country.
Know the Facts – Why temples have such a high risk of abuse
To understand how important it is to have preventative measures in place it may help to first know why temples are at such high risk for abuse.
Several of the following factors could be named:
It is understandable that members of our temples do not like to think that any person in the Gurukula or other congregational members would harm a child, but the transgressions of the past are a reality. Conversely, we do not like to think that false allegations of abuse could be made. Therefore a comprehensive strategy against abuse should be implemented to reduce needless risk of harm that may be done to our children.
What To Do if Abuse Occurs-Guide for Temple Presidents
When a child reports that he or she has experienced any of the behaviors detailed above, serious attention should be paid to the report. While not every child’s story is actually a report of abuse, the truth needs to be determined to prevent further harm to the child or further false allegations.
The following initial steps should be taken if anyone has come to you with a concern of abuse:
What is Abuse and How Does It Happen?
Child abuse is when a person exerts his or her power over a child in ways that harm and/or exploit the child. The abuser is powerful; the child is vulnerable. The abuser can gain power over the child through size, position, knowledge, or money. All of these work to make the abuser feel he or she is able to behave inappropriately toward a child and that the child will be unable to stop the abusive behavior.
The child is vulnerable to an abuser as a result of having fewer resources available to him or her. The child is physically smaller and weaker, intellectually less mature, and can be economically dependent upon the abuser or some other adult. When a child’s vulnerability and an abuser’s misuse of power combine with opportunity, then child abuse may and often does occur.
Types of Child abuse
Child abuse can be categorized in five primary forms: physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, and ritual abuse.
Abuse in which a person deliberately and intentionally causes bodily hann to a child. Examples may include violent battery with a weapon (knife, belt, strap, and so forth), burning, shaking, kicking, choking,. fracturing bones, and any variety of non-accidental injuries to a child’s body.
Abuse in which a person exposes a child to spoken and/or unspoken violence or emotional cruelty. Children exposed to emotional abuse may experience being locked in a closet, being deprived of any sign of parental affection, being constantly told they are bad or stupid, or allowed or forced to use alcohol or drugs. Emotional abuse is often very difficult to prove and is devastating to the victim, sending a message to the child of worthlessness, badness, and being not only unloved but undeserving of love and care.
Abuse in which a person endangers a child’s health, safety, or welfare through negligence. Neglect may include the withholding of food, clothing, medical care, education, and even affection and affirmation of the child’s self-worth. This is perhaps the most common form of abuse.
Abuse in which sexual contact between a child and an adult (or with an older. more powerful youth) occurs. Examples of sexual abuse may include fondling, intercourse, incest, and the exploitation of and exposure to child pornography or prostitution. It is important to note that the child is never truly capable of consenting or resisting such contact.
Abuse in which physical, sexual, or psychological violations of a child are inflicted regularly, intentionally, and in a stylized way by a person or persons responsible for the child’s welfare. The abuser may appeal to some higher authority or power to justify the abuse. The abuse may also include cruel treatment of animals or repeated threats of hann to a child and other persons. Reports of ritual abuse are often extremely horrifying and may seem too grim to be true. However, children making such reports must not be ignored.
Indicators of Child Abuse
Often children suffering abuse will not tell anyone. Therefore, it is important to be able to recognize signs of abuse. The following characteristics may be indicators of abuse, although they are not necessarily proof.Individually, anyone of the indicators may be a sign of other less serious problems. But if these indicators are observed in a child, they can be considered as warnings and should lead you to look into the situation further.
Possible Signs of Physical Abuse
Possible Signs of Emotional Abuse
Possible Signs of Neglect
Possible Signs of Sexual Abuse
Consequences of Child Abuse
When a child is abused in one of our temples or schools, many victims are created, including the child, the congregation, the child’s family, and even the family of the abuser.
Of course, of foremost importance is the child who has been harmed and he or she must be cared for.
Innocence has been stolen from the child and the trauma of abuse causes emotional injury as well as physical injury. Feelings of mistrust, guilt, and sheer emotional pain are scars that can last through the victim’s life. Spiritually, great harm is done to the child when a trusted person in the temple community perpetrates the abuse. The child may struggle with faith in Krsna and the temple with questions like: “If Krsna loves children, how could He let this happen to me?” and “How can the devotees go on chanting and taking part in kirtan, acting like nothing has happened?” Experiences of child abuse create emotional effects, as well as physical, that can be profound and can effect the victim’s life for many years.
|If any such child abuse is brought to the attention of the child protection team, the team should act upon it with deliberation. The longer the abuse goes on, the more harm it does to the child. If you suspect a child is in a dangerous situation, take immediate action.
Every team should learn and follow local laws on mandated reporting of child abuse to civil authorities.
It is our responsibility to protect the children sent to us by Lord Krishna and Srila Prabhupada.