No Harm Campaign
We are launching the “Speak Out” No Harm Campaign; we aim to raise awareness of abuse and trauma currently experienced by children in society today.
Society has got to take a hard look at how children are being mistreated today, as child sexual abuse reaches epidemic proportions.
Today’s abused children are tomorrow’s psychiatric patients. Currently in psychiatric services 50% of women and 23% of men have been abused as children, they are the ones who have disclosed the figures will be much higher.
The fact that women and men self harm, hear voices, experience paranoia, suffer long term bouts of depression, develop addictions can often have its roots in childhood trauma. Psychiatric services often just diagnose people with a mental illness without asking about life experiences.
We aim not just to get psychiatric services talking about trauma and abuse; we want society to take a long hard look at its self and take responsibility for their actions.
We will be selling bracelets with “Speak Out” and No Harm on them so society can begin to talk openly about this topic they can be purchased at the online shop.
Child abuse and neglect is sometimes referred to as child maltreatment, and is defined in the World Report on Violence and Health as:‘All forms of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation resulting in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust, or power’ (WHO 1999, 2002). Childhood maltreatment can be divided into five main areas:
Neglect and neglectful treatment
In the UK ‘harm’ is defined in Section 31 of the Children’s Act (1989) and remains unchanged in the Protection of Children’s Act (1999). Harm is defined by the Act as “ill treatment or the impairment of health or development”.
- “Development” is taken to mean physical, intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development
- “Health” is taken to mean physical or mental health
- “Ill treatment” includes sexual abuse and forms of ill treatment that are not physical
1. Childhood Sexual Abuse
Childhood sexual abuse is the involvement of a child in sexual activity. Childhood sexual abuse is an activity between a child and an adult or another child, who, by age or development is in a relationship of trust or power. The activity being intended to gratify or satisfy the needs of the other person (WHO, 1999). In the UK a child from 13 and below cannot consent legally to sexual contact or intercourse.
Sexual abuse may include:
- Non-contact abuse - exhibitionism, voyeurism, exposure to pornography
- Contact abuse - touching breasts, genital/anal fondling, masturbation, oral sex, object or finger penetration of the anus or vagina, penile penetration of the anus or vagina, encouraging the child or young person to perform such acts on the perpetrator
- Involvement of a child or young person in sexual activities for the purposes of pornography or prostitution
2. Childhood Physical Abuse
Physical abuse of a child is that which results in actual or potential physical harm from an interaction or lack of interaction, which is reasonably within the control of a parent or person in a position of responsibility, power, or trust. There may be single or repeated incidents (WHO, 1999). This includes:
- Bruises and welts
- Cuts and abrasions
- Fractures or sprains
- Abdominal injuries
- Head injuries
- Injuries to internal organs
- Strangulation or suffocation
- Burns or scalds
3. Childhood Emotional/Psychological Abuse
Emotional abuse includes the failure to provide a developmentally appropriate, supportive environment, including the availability of a primary attachment figure, so that the child can develop a stable and full range of emotional and social competencies. These acts must be reasonably within the control of the parent or person in a relationship of responsibility, trust or power.
It may include:
- Inappropriate and continued criticism, threats, humiliation, accusations
- Exposure to family violence
- Severe isolation enforced by another person
- Corruption of the child or young person through exposure to, or involvement in illegal or anti-social activities
- The negative impact of the mental or emotional state of the parent or carer
- The negative impact of substance abuse by anyone living in the same residence as the child or young person
4. Childhood Neglect and Negligent Treatment
This is the inattention or omission on the part of the carer to provide for the development of the child in all contexts. It includes the failure to properly supervise and protect children from harm as much as is feasible (WHO, 1999). Some examples are:
- Neglect (especially as a child) - including physical neglect, neglectful supervision, medical neglect, abandonment and refusal to resume parental responsibility
- Deliberate or unintentional starvation
- Lack of essential provision such as clothing and basic comfort
5. Childhood Commercial or Other Exploitation of a Child
This refers to use of the child in work or other activities for the benefit of others. It includes, but is not limited to, child labour and child prostitution. These activities are to the detriment of the child’s physical or mental health, education, moral or social-emotional development (WHO, 1999). Some examples are:
- Hiring out the child for work of a physical or sexual nature
- Any other aspect of exploitation that is harmful to the child
Childhood sexual abuse is an international public health problem both at an individual and societal level. Definitions and examples of different types of child maltreatment have been given. A child can experience a combination of these. The greater the trauma dose, the greater the likelihood of psychological dysfunction in adulthood.
Since the recognition of childhood abuse as a social problem in the 1970’s, organizations such as schools have developed educational programmes to promote a greater awareness. Professionals are now more aware of childhood abuse. Unfortunately, they rarely ask adults about childhood abuse histories. There is a wealth of evidence that health professionals rarely ask about bad things that may have happened to their clients as children (Lampshire, 2000; Lothian and Read, 2002). A recent review (Warne & McAndrew, 2005) highlighted how ill prepared, in terms of knowledge and attitudes, mental health nurses are to work with service users who have had such experiences. Both pragmatic and emotional reasons were explored. Other frontline mental health care professionals including psychiatrists and social workers are equally ill equipped (Read & Fraser, 1998).
The table below shows some of the physical and sexual difficulties which are often experienced by teenage and adult survivors of sexual abuse. Survivors may experience different types of sexual problems at different times in their lives some of them are shown below.
Sexual difficulties and responses to sexual abuse
“How did you get here?”
The relationship between traumatic life events and serious mental health problems
In a recent discussion with the veteran Irish uses rights campaigner Ita O’Keefe, she explained to me how one of the comforts she found in her many years in the Irish psychiatric system was the sympathy and understand she found on Irish admission wards, not from the staff but from other in-patients.