According to a clinical psychologist, child abuse isn’t the same as other forms of crime.
Understanding Child Abuse
Child abuse is an unfortunate reality in many countries, such as Malta. Abuse may take many forms – physical, emotional, sexual and neglect are among them – which makes prevention and resolution of child abuse crimes crucial to society as a whole. Governments, organizations and communities all play their roles to address and prevent child exploitation as part of a comprehensive strategy to ensure its prevention and resolution.
Malta combines child protection services, law enforcement agencies and non-governmental organizations in their effort to identify and respond to instances of child abuse. The Department for Social Welfare Standards under the Ministry for Family, Children’s Rights and Social Solidarity oversees child protection services here; their responsibility includes offering support and intervention services for victims of abuse or neglect.
Malta has laws in place to protect children from abuse, with those found guilty facing legal repercussions for such offences. Furthermore, organizations and hotlines exist where suspected cases of child abuse can be reported anonymously.
Raising awareness about child maltreatment, providing education on child protection practices and reporting any suspected cases to relevant authorities is vital to safeguard and ensure the wellbeing of children in Malta and worldwide.
There are times when abuse becomes intentional, however, not always. When parents, nannies, or guardians can no longer cope with childcare, it can result in dysfunctional behaviour, especially abuse.
Child Exploitation in Malta
The University of Malta conducted a research study to give insight into the problem of child abuse in Malta. It emphasises an alarmingly high percentage of child exploitation cases with a low percentage of victims seeking help. Some survivors seek help decades after the abuse incident.
“It is like a dark blanket you carry all your life. Even if the physical damage that may have happened because of the abuse fades away, the emotional wounds persist,” said Roberta Attard, clinical psychologist and former child protection officer.
Also one of the chief researchers of the project, Attard added that it results in inter-generational transmission. Emotional abuse induces irreparable damage, but people only see the least.
Unsupervised children are vulnerable to substance abuse, especially to people who abuse them. They are exposed to many things that are beyond their level of understanding. This raises their anxiety levels, affecting their tendency to learn.
Respondents found it hard to seek help when they actually recognised they were suffering from emotional abuse. Moreover, they don’t think of asking for help again because they think their society can’t protect them. They feel ashamed, disgraced, and fear of being reported about what happened to them.
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