How child abuse affects the future of those who suffer from it – Magisnet

Neglecting the needs of a minor, sexually abusing him or her, or physically or psychologically abusing him or her are just some of the examples of what child abuse is. According to data from the Ministry of the Interior, in recent years there has been a drastic increase in the number of minors who have been victims of cybercrime (from 1,023 cases in 2011 to 2,319 in 2018), sexual crimes (from 3,835 in 2008 to 5,382 in 2018) and family violence (from 3,994 in 2008 to 6,532 in 2018).

Sometimes it is difficult to identify because “there is no ‘unique profile of the abused child’ and not all children and adolescents who suffer violence experience the same consequences, because there are people with greater resilience than others, with greater family support than others, etc.”, explains Irene Montiel, professor at the UOC’s Law and Political Science Department and researcher for the VICRIM group – Criminal Justice System.

Even so, beyond the physical signs, some changes in their behavior can offer clues to the situation they are going through, “sudden changes in mood or behavior and psychopathological symptoms such as anxiety or depression, conduct disorders or behaviors antisocial”, details Montiel.

The effect of the pandemic

The pandemic has increased child abuse in almost all its versions. According to the ANAR Foundation, during strict confinement and the first outings in Spain, calls for physical abuse, cyberbullying, pedophile deception increased (grooming) and psychological problems of minors, such as suicidal ideation or attempts (increased by 244.1%), self-harm (increased by 246.2%), eating disorders (826.3%), depression, and aggressiveness and anger.

Irene Montiel, Professor of Law and Political Science

If we observe that a boy or a girl is involved, as a victim or as an aggressor, in a situation of violence, it would be necessary to inquire about their history of previous victimization, that is, the violence they have previously suffered as a victim or witness and address the treatment and recovery to prevent re-victimization or potential abuse

Technology was already implicit in our lives, but with Covid and, above all, with the lockdowns, social life moved to the internet.

Thus, problems associated with technology increased (from 23.2% to 29.9%), which affected aspects such as groomingcyberbullying, gender violence, pornography and child prostitution, among others, according to ANAR.

“In the field of online violence, in a broad sense, up to 61% of boys and girls between the ages of 12 and 17 suffer from it each year,” explains Montiel.

Irene Montiel, Professor of Law and Political Science

Boys and girls constitute the age group most vulnerable to violence, largely due to their lack of autonomy and their situation of dependency

In general, girls are the ones who report receiving more child abuse, according to ANAR data (69% girls and 29% boys), and parents or caregivers are the main actors who most frequently perpetrate violence.

“More than 80% of cases of child sexual abuse are perpetrated by members of the victim’s family (although not always the parents) and a high percentage of children and adolescents have witnessed domestic violence, usually from a parent. towards the other or towards other members of the family”, explains Montiel, who adds that “it is especially serious, since this same environment is the main agent of socialization of boys and girls and what should act as the main guarantor of their safety and protection”.

care and protect

“These children and adolescents who suffer violence experience a loss of confidence in themselves, in the people around them and in their future, although the impact will depend mainly on the personal characteristics of the victim (sex, age, self-esteem, etc. ), the characteristics of the abuse and the aggressor (duration, degree of violence, victim-aggressor relationship) and the reaction and behavior of the immediate environment (degree of support and protection)”, explains Montiel.

There are numerous national and international studies that reveal important negative consequences for the health of minors who are victims of violence in the short and long term, especially in cases of polyvictimization and cybervictimization.

Irene Montiel, Professor of Law and Political Science

The more types of maltreatment experienced throughout childhood, the more symptoms are reported in adolescence and youth, as well as in adulthood, and the greater the risk of severe psychosocial impairment.

Indeed, abused minors are more likely to be abusers in the future if they do not receive the care and protection they need.

“Violence experienced directly or indirectly negatively affects the development of secure bonds with other people and skills that inhibit antisocial behavior (prosocial behavior, empathy, self-control, emotional self-regulation, etc.), which increases the risk that they will have violent behavior towards other people (parents, peers, partners or even sons or daughters in the future)”.

For this reason, it is especially relevant to intervene with these children and adolescents to stop the transmission of violence and prevent them from becoming perpetrators or new victims in the future.

There are numerous studies that affirm that “there is a predisposition to criminal behavior if you have witnessed family violence during childhood,” explains the expert.

“Although this association is not direct and simple and there are many other factors that intervene in antisocial behavior, being a victim of violence in childhood increases the risk, but does not determine it unequivocally, prevention is very necessary and effective ” Montiel concludes.

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How child abuse affects the future of those who suffer from it – Magisnet