2021-06-04 GENERAL HOUSE

4 June: International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression

Violence and Abuse of Children: Deep Wounds that do not Heal with Time

The United Nations (UN) instituted the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression to acknowledge the pain that children suffer from all sorts of violence.  This day is celebrated annually on the 4th of June to affirm the UN’s commitment to protect children as well as to urge governments, civil society organizations and the various educational institutions to conduct programs to educate people about their rights. Documented information reveal that children have been and continue to be victims of armed conflicts and domestic abuse. According to the UN, many children are used as child soldiers, sexually violated, abducted, killed, and denied access to humanitarian assistance, schools, and hospitals. Also, in many parts of the world, many of them are victims of all sorts of abuses including child marriage, child labour, female genital mutilation, and child-trafficking. Some of them equally suffer from physical, emotional, sexual abuse and neglect at home and at school. These abuses cause them wounds that time cannot heal.

Neurobiologists and neuropsychiatrists see all kinds of brain abnormalities and psychiatric disorders in people who have been abused as children. Some of these include psychosomatic disorder and agoraphobia, post-traumatic stress disorder or aggression, impulsiveness, delinquency, hyperactivity, and substance abuse. Although genes provide the foundation and overall structure of our brains, their numerous connections are sculpted and moulded by experience. Research describes a pattern of brain abnormalities associated with childhood abuse. An electroencephalogram (EEG) test used to diagnose conditions such as epilepsy, head injuries, dizziness, headaches, brain tumors, sleeping problems and brain death ascertains that childhood abuse is associated with specific evidence of neurobiological abnormalities. Boys and girls who had been abused or neglected develop complications on their corpus callosum: a bundle of nerve fibers connecting the left and right cerebral hemispheres.

Whatever form child abuse takes, it sets off a ripple of hormonal changes that wire the child’s brain to cope with a malevolent world. It predisposes the child to have a biological basis for fear, even though he or she may act and pretend otherwise. Early abuse moulds the brain to be more irritable, impulsive, suspicious, and prone to ‘fight or flight’ reactions that the rational mind may be unable to control. The brain is programmed to a state of defensive adaptation, enhancing survival in a world of constant danger.  

It is evident from the foregoing reflection that childhood abuse is one of the root causes of violence and delinquent behaviour. Childhood abuse is not something we get over later. It has enduring wounds. It is an evil that we must acknowledge and confront if we aim to do anything about the unchecked cycle of violence in our societies. Given this, is it possible to reduce violence by focusing on childcare rather than on crime? If society reaps what it sows, then, this question is an invitation to everyone to improve daycare and after-school programs. Therefore, parents need education on how to nurture their children more effectively and how to foster better relationships among peers and siblings. They need to create child-centred,enabling environments to facilitate children’s learning and development in the early years.

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Brother Francis Lukong – Secretariat of Solidarity

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