Violence is a social problem that causes inequality because it interferes with the right that every person has to live in an environment conducive to personal and social growth, Ms. Mayra l. Díaz Garced expressed in her essay “Maltrato de menores: Un problema de todos” (“Child Abuse: Everyone’s Problem”), which is part of the Serie de Trabajos Investigativos en Curso (STIC), published by the Center for the Development of Ethical Thinking of the Office of Governmental Ethics of Puerto Rico (2012). Child abuse is one of the modalities of human abuse.
As cited by Díaz Garced in her essay (2012, p.3), violence against children includes physical and mental abuse, abandonment or neglect, exploitation and sexual abuse. The violence can happen at home, school, orphanages, residential facilities, in the streets, and workplaces, among others. This affects the physical and mental health of the children, hinders their ability to learn and socialize, and in later life, hurts their development as functional adults, good parents, and in some cases, causes death (Díaz Garced, 2012, UNICEF, 2006).
By definition, child abuse is conducted by an adult, who by his/her actions or omission hurts the physical, psychological, or sexual development of a child (Díaz Garced, 2012, p.3-4). Thus, child abuse manifests itself not only in the act of hitting or insulting a child, but also in the act of forgetting to give a child medicine when he or she needs it, or not keeping them away from danger. A more complete definition is found in Article 2 of Law #177 of August 1, 2003.
Díaz Garced cites Maldonado Santiago (2007) when she states that at least six types of child abuse have been identified. These are physical abuse, neglect, emotional abuse, exploitation, institutional abuse, and sexual abuse.
Physical abuse against a child is when an adult causes bodily harm, either with his/her hands, feet, or by utilizing a variety of objects, and exposes the child to danger, as a means to make the child behave. This type of abuse, on one hand translates into insecurity, shyness and submission depression, anxiety, poor social skills, and on the other hand, into rebellion, aggression, distrust, anti-social conducts, among others (Díaz Garced, 2012, p. 4).
Díaz Garced mentions that sexual abuse is one of the most worrisome modalities of child abuse. Sexual abuse includes any kind of penetration, touching or caressing of the genitals, or forcing a child to touch the abuser’s genitals, or exposing the child to inappropriate sexual content. For example, watching a naked adult or an adult engaging in a sexual act with others, looking at pornographic material or listening to conversations with a sexual content (Díaz Garced, 2012, p. 5).
To read Díaz Garced’s essay “Violence against children: Everyone’s problem” in full, please follow the link below: