In the Philippines, there are more than 36 million people under 19 years old who are living in utterly inhuman conditions. About a million and a half children are estimated to live on the streets. They survive by begging for food and through petty theft. In spite of laws against child labor, more than three and a half million children from 5 to 17 years old work under grueling conditions. The data regarding child abuse and neglect in the Philippines are considered to be below the actual figures since the current statistics only reflect reported cases of abuse.
Recently, a survey by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) reflected a sudden increase in the number of children that resulted from increased awareness and reporting in the community. Most of these children in this survey were victims of child abuse and neglect, also known as “child maltreatment.” Child maltreatment is a behavior toward a child that is outside the norms of conduct and entails substantial risk of causing physical or emotional harm. Child maltreatment can be a single incident, but it is usually a pattern of behavior that takes place over time. There are four types of recognized maltreatment. These are physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse (psychological abuse), and neglect.
The causes of child maltreatment are varied and not well understood. Abuse and neglect are often associated with physical injuries, delayed growth and development, and mental problems. They are more common in poor and extremely poor families than in families with higher incomes. Child maltreatment is also associated with psychological and emotional problems such as aggression, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. In extreme cases, child abuse and neglect can lead to death.
Child abuse is also linked to an increase risk of substance abuse, eating disorders, obesity, depression, suicide, and sexual promiscuity later on in their lives. Women who were victims of physical assault during their childhood are twice as likely to be victims of physical assault as adults. There are also evidences which suggest that victims of child maltreatment are more likely to engage themselves in criminal behavior as juveniles and adults than others.
Although it is said that the most important relationship for all beings is that with their parents or with their families, child maltreatment often starts at home. Unfortunately, an alarming number of parents do not understand the importance of the parent-child relationship. They are often too young or unprepared for such responsibility. Their inability to commit to good parenting techniques causes serious detriment to the lives and well being of their children.
Children who have been maltreated are usually unwilling or unable to reveal their situation to someone because of parental threats, or a feeling of loyalty to the family. For children who are in school, while carefully asking a child may help to unearth details of maltreatment, teachers need to be aware of non-verbal ways in which the message of abuse may be communicated. The presence of one indicator alone does not necessarily mean that maltreatment has occurred. If there are a number of indicators, then immediate counseling is needed for the child. It is the process by which a professional helps a person cope with mental or emotional distress, and understand and solve personal problems is called counseling.
Individual and group counseling sessions usually take two years or even longer. The goal of undoing life-long damage can be very difficult because the damage pervades every aspect of a child. There may also be physiological changes that cannot just be “counseled” away. Medication can be useful for the symptoms of depression, anxiety and other symptoms, but should never be dispensed in the absence of counseling for the root of the problem. For children, play therapy and family therapy can be helpful.
It is important to help a child deal with the abuse as well as the psychological problems they report. Research indicates that without some form of intervention against child maltreatment, the long-term consequences for children can be nightmares, feeling of insecurity, feeling unsafe, poor school performance and low self-esteem. They are also more likely to be abusive or become victims of abuse themselves.