A significant number of people believe child abuse is an appalling crime that happens to someone else. As far as they are concerned, it is somebody else’s problem. However, given the prevalence of child abuse, child abuse is everyone’s problem and the more we turn away from its reality in our society, the more we close our minds to being educated on the horrors of child abuse.
Most child abuse occurs within the family and a majority of children we have been privileged to serve and work with over the years report having been victims of some form of child abuse. Although it is certainly true that child abuse also occurs outside the home – in schools, in religious settings, in state institutions and in the community, – most often children are abused by someone they know and by someone they see every day.
The impact of child abuse on children can be long term and damaging and those who were abused as children are far more likely to become offenders, thus perpetuating generations of dysfunction and denial.
It takes a village to raise a child and as members of the wider community, we all have a role to play in ensuring that children are safe from violence, abuse, molestation and harassment. Sharing responsibility for the care and protection of children helps to ensure that all children are safe from harm and are cared for in a way that allows them to reach their full potential.
Child abuse and neglect can happen to any child but children with disabilities, children without the care and protection of a family and child domestic workers are at greater risk of maltreatment including sexual abuse, child labour, trafficking, bullying and emotionally violent child discipline.
Parents who place their children as domestics in the households of strangers are naively convinced that the promise of a better life and education represents a genuine opportunity for their girls and is also a panacea for their own problems. They fail to realise that the isolation of child domestic workers from their own families and communities, lack of self-esteem, illiteracy, and possibly pregnancy as a consequence of sexual abuse, frequently lead to the descent into prostitution of a child domestic worker dismissed for the most cursory of reasons.
Another alarming trend has been the increase in the number of children sold by their biological parents around the country. It beggars belief! It seems the extreme poverty and misery in which so many Nigerians are plunged into have distorted their thinking patterns and led them to resort to negative coping mechanisms to survive.
Child safeguarding is an issue of extreme concern and protecting children from from harm, abuse, neglect and exploitation in any form is a fundamental part of our work at House of Mercy Children’s Home, Lagos, Nigeria (HOM).
Our message to perpetrators of child abuse is STOP IT NOW and seek professional help immediately! Child abuse is not a problem child abusers and molesters can handle on their own, outside forces are usually necessary to get offenders to come to grips with the inappropriate behaviour and break through their denial system. But understand this, if you are a child abuser, there will be no place for you to hide.
Child Abuse: An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth a Pound of Cure
An ounce of prevention truly is worth a pound of cure! The most effective way of protecting children from all forms of abuse and exploitation is prevention. It is generally acknowledged that it is better to take steps to prevent child abuse, neglect and exploitation than to deal with its consequences.
Child safety and prevention activities include confronting child abuse before it occurs by
- Teaching children to protect themselves and recognise, resist and report abuse.
- Working with families to stop the root causes of child abuse and neglect.
- Strengthening parenting skills and promoting positive parenting practices through parenting education as well as crisis intervention and counselling.
- Providing training for child care providers, health workers, teachers, police, local authorities and community leaders to strengthen their knowledge and skills to identify and respond to child protection risks including referrals of affected children to appropriate care and rehabilitation services.
- Organising activities directed at changing attitudes and social behaviours of parents, child care providers, teachers, religious leaders and community leaders through advocacy and behaviour change campaigns.
- Tackling deeply ingrained assumptions that child domestic work is an accepted and expected practice especially for girls. Although no single intervention can address the complexity of the issues affecting child domestic workers, the current and future situation of children traded into domestic servitude is dependent on changes in public attitudes and private behaviour of those in a position to employ, and potentially to exploit children.
- Promoting awareness about the prevalence of child abuse and educating the public on the horrors of child abuse.
- Awareness campaigns through television, radio and social media must be carried out to eliminate this shameful scourge of child-selling. Besides severely punishing parents involved in child-selling to deter others, it will require political will, courage and determination by political leaders to create conditions that lift people out of poverty and enable them to live in dignity.
Child abuse is often a taboo topic but given the alarming and growing numbers of child abuse and neglect cases, there is a need for accelerated action to tackle the issue of child abuse.
Children need advocates; individuals who are willing to take simple and ordinary actions that prevent violence and abuse before it happens and prevent further violence and abuse in children at risk of it.
Reporting Child Abuse is Everyone’s Responsibility
Reporting child abuse or neglect is the responsibility of anyone who sees or suspects it. If you have a reason to suspect a child is experiencing harm or is in danger of abuse, neglect, incest, sexual abuse, child battering, child-selling, child labour or child trafficking or if you are a victim of child abuse, please notify:
- Any Child Protection Network Member at the nearest Local Government Area.
- Child Protection Unit, Ministry of Youth and Social Development, State Secretariat, Alausa.
- Gender Unit, State Police Command Headquarters, Ikeja.
- Juvenile Welfare Centres in all police stations.
Toll Free Rescue Lines for Child Abuse and Domestic Violence Reporting
- Dial 112 or
- Dial *6820# or
- Text ‘ABUSE’ to 6820
Please note that House of Mercy Children’s Home Lagos, Nigeria (HOM) does not accept responsibility for the accuracy of any information accessed outside our website or any information which is obtained from any such third party.
While not all suspicions of child abuse and neglect prove true, protecting vulnerable children is certainly worth the risk. Doing nothing while a child could be suffering is a far greater tragedy than the inaction of being wrong.
It is time for everyone to step forward and address this terrible epidemic. Children deserve nothing less than our constant focus on their safety, and our firm commitment to protect them from mental, physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect even if their parents or guardians are unwilling to do so.
“Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.” ~ H.I.M Haile Selassie 1