The recent news surrounding child abuse in China has not only stormed social media platforms worldwide, but has also been the last straw among Chinese and expat parents who worry about their children’s safety.
A day after a major abuse scandal at a Beijing branch implicating the Chinese preschool company RBY Education (红黄蓝幼儿园) has made headlines, many netizens are left so shocked by the news that they say they ‘cannot sleep’.
Violence against children is a serious crime in China, but still it is apparent. Children must be protected from all forms of violence and abuse. Families, communities and authorities are responsible for ensuring this protection. Expats who live in China and work closely with children can play a huge role in ensuring the safety of our younger Chinese generation. Those who don’t work with children can still do a lot to keep a watch out for any suspicious activity involving their safety in the Chinese community.
First, we must understand what violence is.
Violence against children can happen in many settings: at home, in schools, in care and justice facilities, in workplaces and in the community. It also takes many forms:
Physical violence (spanking or beating under the guise of discipline, violent shaking, fighting, child-on-child violence, corporal punishment)
Psychological violence (insults, humiliation, bullying, emotional abuse, harassment)
Sexual violence and abuse(sexual comments, exposure to or involvement in pornography, forcing children to watch sexual acts, genital touching, any form of sexual intercourse with adults who have authority over children)
Neglect and abandonment(isolation, not providing necessary food or medical treatment, emotional distance, locking children up inside the home, leaving children unattended in a parked car, not talking to the child, not showing any care and support for the child)
Child marriage (arranging, forcing or allowing a child to marry before the legal age)
How bad is the situation: Read on and be the judge
Quite often, children who experience violence often do not talk about the problem because of fear, shame or stigma. Some children come to accept violence as a “normal” part of life.
It is important to understand that children of any age, gender, ethnicity or nationality must be protected from all forms of violence.
While some violence is perpetrated by strangers, most is carried out by people whom children know and should be able to trust for protection including parents, relatives, siblings, caregivers, friends, schoolmates, teachers, religious leaders and employers.
Xiao Bao’s head got burnt by his father with boiling water and fire and is wrapped in gauze. The father, Luo Chaojiang, an alcoholic and a drug addict, repeatedly beats his children.
It is important for foreigners who work in social and healthcare settings to understand that the risk of child abuse may higher in those with fragile backgrounds.
Qiqihar hands are deformed and he is unable to stand due to broken spine. Liu Xiaofang, the boy’s mother, insists that he suffered the injuries after falling from height. Due to lack of evidence, police refused to record the case. His mother disappeared after the incident.
For example, certain groups are particularly vulnerable to violence, such as children with disabilities, without care providers, from minority groups, those living or working on the street, those who are in conflict with the law, and those who are refugees, displaced or affected by migration.
Xiao Ting receives medical treatment at a hospital after her right hand was cut off by her stepmother on June 28, 2013. She gathered all her strength to ask “Dad, where has my hand gone?” after she woke up at the hospital.
Often, adults take action after child maltreatment occurs. It is critical that communities shift the emphasis to preventing child violence, abuse, neglect and harmful practices.
Xiao Rong cooks for her two brothers at home.
Babies and young children are sometimes the object of a parent's frustration when they do not stop crying. The caregiver may shake or punish the young child so violently that it causes serious harm that can lead to permanent injury or death. It is never okay to shake a child or to violently punish them.
A little girl receives treatment at the intensive care unit of a hospital after she got beaten and burnt by her father and stepmother.
Violence against children cannot be tolerated and international experience tells us that it is preventable.
Hope is not lost
According to UNICEF – a non-profit organization which caters to the greater good worldwide, the following solutions can be implemented by any responsible adult to ensure the safety of children within their vicinity:
Resolve to refrain from any form of spanking or corporal punishment as a means of disciplining a child; there are many very effective non-violent ways to discipline a child.
Pay attention to children and listen carefully to the different ways they share information; provide positive encouragement and praise; point out and correct negative behaviors; never vilify or humiliate.
Protect young children from all forms of sexual language, images and behavior.
Take an active interest in the health, safety and well-being or all children in the neighborhood and community.
Develop and communicate codes of conduct against all forms of violence in settings where children live, go to school, play and work.
Educate parents and caregivers to respect the child's perspective, learn how to use positive and non-violent discipline and not to discipline a child when angry.
Support schools to foster attitudes that reject violence and promote conflict resolution. This can involve changing classroom management to a child-friendly approach that is inclusive, fair, participatory and cooperative.
Provide children affected by violence with health and psycho-social services to help them reintegrate into their families and communities
Establish safe ways for children to report violence against them, such as telephone hotlines or accessible social protection centers.
ALWAYS CALL THE POLICE UPON WITNESSING SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY!
Positive measures in China are in the making in recent years, including frequent clampdowns and exposure of child abuse cases in the media.
The public's growing concern also shows that changes are taking place in society, albeit gradually. China's economic and social development, and the promotion of the rule of law have made an increasing number of people realize the importance of child protection. This article is written with the aim to enhance the understanding of the importance behind identifying the seriousness of the situation, and a call to action for the sake of these innocent victims of abuse.
What are your ideas and suggestions to make this leap a successful one?