Firstly lets define child abuse, it shouldn't be confined to sexual abuse, sexual abuse is often the least of these kids problems, the starvation and battering usually kills them first.
1. Neglect. This can range anywhere between feeding them a poor diet, cutting them off emotionally, ignoring their needs and failing to prepare them for the outside world. Neglect leads to 2 and 3 below.
2. Physical abuse. Far more prevalent and harmful than its popular stablemate No. 3. In this topsy turvy world, we can almost imagine a Judge addressing a latter day Oliver Twist; 'and whilst you were being forced to work inhuman hours, starved, beaten and locked in a cellar, were you at any time fondled?'
3. Sexual abuse. The stuff of tabloid front pages and over zealous 'child protectors'.
The most important issue to tackle in my opinion, is number 1, Neglect. And neglect is a widespread and often ignored issue that inevitably leads on to numbers 2 and 3. - yet it is the easiest and most cost effective to tackle.
Over 90% of child abuse happens within the home or at the hands of people who know the child. Some would have us believe our children are in constant danger from paedophiles and perverts lurking on every corner and hiding away in every bedsit. That simply isn't true. The dangers are much closer to home.
The way in which society has evolved has led to many young parents, girls especially, being left alone to raise young children without the advice, support and wisdom of their mothers, aunts, and wider family. These support networks have existed since time began, in every society, but as we move away from our home turf, we lose the basic and moral guidelines of loving relatives as we get lost in a sea of new ideas and information.
I have long advocated teaching parenting within schools, possibly led by an army of older 'Mums', who could pass on their own experiences and tips for how to deal with fractious toddlers and keep your sanity. Sadly many young people have no-one to talk to, and fewer still have parents who will inspire them to want more from life than a baby, a Council flat and a boyfriend who doesn't hit them. These dysfunctional families rarely move far from their 'estates' and bad parenting in one generation, leads to bad parenting in the next, and so the cycle goes on.
Child abuse stems from ignorance. Parents who do not know how to love and care for their children will quickly lose control. And once they lose control, alienation and behavioural problems set in. Most bad behaviour in children is born out of frustration and the child's need for attention - even negative attention is better than nothing. And of course, it is hard to love a child who is screaming blue murder when your head is pounding and you are desperate for some sleep.
To a small child, or even a big one, you, their mum, their dad, are their world, they love you more than anything else and they want to please and impress you. Listen to them, even if they are babbling and struggling to find the words to form a complete sentence, give them your full attention, praise their attempts and help them! The sooner you and your child can communicate with each other, the more peaceful all your lives will be.
Children who are abused are vulnerable because they are unable to communicate. That vital part of parental teaching is missing from their make up. They are neglected, whether it was deliberate or not, because their parents failed to provide them with the 'shields' they need to protect themselves in this world. And the fault lies with the parents, not the 'authorities', the NHS or the Education system (well partly), it lies with those who shape the child's outlook on the world in those early, vital years, 'give me the child until he's 5 etc'.
But it isn't entirely the parents' fault, because they have had the same crap indoctrination that they are passing on. Don't aspire for too much and accept as gospel everything people with white collars tell you, and for good measure, it wouldn't hurt to doff your cap on occasion. Learn only enough to remain content with your lot.
But this isn't a Marxist rant. Child abuse occurs because lives get out of control. Women with very low aspirations accept into their lives angry, abusive men because it is better than being on their own with kids. They are vulnerable to predators of the worst kind. And because they think so little of themselves, they are unable to protect their offspring. Their victimhood is reinforced by people with good intentions, whilst their ability to do anything about it is sidestepped because their urgent and dramatic needs must come first.
It is easier to find a villain to blame for the circumstances you find yourself in, rather than accept that you, yourself, have made those life choices. As well as practical assistance, these women, and indeed evermore men, need to be taught that they don't have to live that way. Unfortunately, child abuse and domestic violence is a pattern they will go on to repeat again and again until they realise that they and their children deserve to be treated with kindness and respect, and they shouldn't accept anything less.
If hundreds, or even thousands, of children are to be 'lifted out of child abuse', then we must educate the parents, the mothers especially. Family dynamics are an ever shifting entity in the 21st century, it is a fact of life and one that won't change, despite all the cries for a return to Victorian values*. Remember those teenage and twenty something heads haven't seen life as we oldies have, they don't know what to look out for and what to avoid. They are almost as gullible and vulnerable as their kids.
To prevent child abuse, the best gift we can give our children is confidence. A child who is confident and self assured will be far better protected than a child who is nervous and paranoid. The world isn't full of bogeymen lurking in the dark waiting for the lights to go out. And looking at porn online doesn't lead on to serial killing. Whilst we must teach our kids to be cautious online, turning them into pill popping neurotics will make them more vulnerable, not less.
The world is full of abusers in every way, shape and form, from those in authority over us as children to those in authority over us as adults. How much of this abuse we are prepared to tolerate depends on the way in which we view ourselves and the world around us. If we feel worthless/powerless, we will accept it, if we feel strong and confident, we won't. We only have control over our own lives and if we choose victimhood, that's what we will get.
As I write this, the UK remains in hysteria over the abuses of Jimmy Savile and other old 'celebrity' men, who are being dragged from their homes, publicly castigated and sent to the dungeon for the remainder of their lives. Do they deserve it? I dunno, but one look at the sad, hurt, dirty, snotty, little faces queuing up with their stressed out parents at this decade's food banks, reminds me of Dante 'Abandon Hope all ye who enter here'. Dickens too, must be weeping.
*Perhaps not so 21st century, who can forget David Copperfield's first scary encounter with his 'new' stepfather.