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Abused children could become abusers

Written by Allison Cooper

An abused child is more likely to abuse others when they grow up, but this does not happen in all cases. 

This is according to Shaheda Omar, the Director of Clinical Services at the Teddy Bear Foundation, who says that when children are abused, they often feel powerless as they are unable to stop the abuse.

“If they become abusers themselves, it’s often to try and regain their power. It makes them feel that they are in control when they re-enact their own abuse. However, the feeling of satisfaction is short lived, so they keep repeating the cycle.

“They also do not necessarily carry out the same form of abuse they suffered. Sex offenders, for example, may not have been sexually abused, but could have suffered from physical abuse or purposeful neglect,” Omar explains.

What is child abuse?

Child abuse happens when someone caring for a child hurts their feelings or body. It can happen to boys or girls, in any family. 

Physical abuse is when a child's body has been hurt. Hitting hard with a hand or object, like a belt, can leave bruises or cuts and cause pain. Shaking, pushing, choking, punching, painful grabbing and kicking are also physical abuse.

Sexual abuse can include sexual acts, taking or sharing sexual photos and sexual talk with children; neglect is when an adult doesn't do what is needed to take care of a child, like not providing enough food or clothing; and emotional abuse happens when adults judge, threaten, put down, reject and withhold love, making children feel bad about themselves.

Signs of child abuse

Children often have a hard time talking about abuse, so knowing the signs is important.

Children who are abused might:

  • Have frequent bruises, especially in places they don't usually get them from playing.
  • Have stories to explain their injuries, that don't make sense or keep changing.
  • Not want to go home.
  • Avoid being with the abuser.
  • Avoid being with others.
  • Show signs of emotional trauma, like fear, anger or trouble relating to or trusting others.
  • Be sad or depressed.
  • Bully others.
  • Hurt themselves, like cutting.
  • Have nightmares or trouble sleeping.
  • Act out in class, have trouble paying attention or be hyperactive.
  • Use drugs.

If you suspect that a child is being abused, contact the Teddy Bear Foundation at 011 484 4554.