Sunday, November 4, 2007 Issue 157, Page 5 Word count: 648 Published in: Macau Daily Times
By Poyi (Natalie) Leung
Corporal punishment is being greatly discouraged by a local anti-child abuse group as an ineffective and adverse way to educate children.
Against Child Abuse (Macau) Association Child Protection Centre (ACAM), founded in June last year, is a non-profit-making organisation subsidised by the Social Welfare Bureau.
The association aims to provide professional assistance to abused or neglected newborns and children aged 18 or below, as well as to parents who experience communication difficulty with their children.
Through community education, open seminars, training programs and group activities, the ACAM hopes to promote the importance of prevention work and efficient child protection programs in society.
Speaking exclusively to the Macau Daily Times yesterday, executive supervisor of the Taipa centre, Kitty Lam, said the accelerating growth of Macau had contributed to the rise of child abuse cases in recent years.
“More parents now have to work on shifts and don’t get someone to take care of their children when they’re not at home,” Ms Lam said, adding that “leaving children alone even just for a few minutes can result in a tragedy.”
Child abuse, according to the association, is defined as any act of commission or omission that jeopardises or impairs a child’s physical or psychological health and development.
Also, the abuser takes advantage of one’s unique status such as age and social status to abuse a child individually or in a group.
Ms Lam said the association started handling child abuse and family counselling cases in the beginning of this year after its staff members, including social workers and volunteers, received specific quality training.
Currently, ACAM is dealing with some 10 cases which are mainly linked to physical abuse and negligence, she added.
“Most of the time parents are having a disharmonious relationship and they will then release their anger and frustration on the innocent children.”
Child abuse can be divided into four major types – physical abuse, sexual abuse, negligence and psychological abuse.
Physical abuse refers to physical injury or suffering to a child, or failure to prevent the incidents from happening. It includes non-accidental use of force, deliberate poisoning, suffocation or burning.
Ms Lam said parents tend to punish their children physically when they misbehave. However, it could evolve to a point that the punishment has become a violent and uncontrollable behaviour.
Ultimately, she added, the abused child could develop anti-social behaviours, suffer from lack of self confidence, oppression, despair, or self harm.
Sexual abuse, Ms Lam said, can take place even there is no physical contact. For example, taking nude photos of the children or forcing them to watch pornography videos.
“It refers to a child’s involvement in an illegal sexual activity or in conditions when the child lacks mental capacity to exercise consent for their engagement,” she told the Macau Daily Times.
Negligence, which Ms Lam said is one of the most common forms of child abuse, involves severe or long-term negligence of a child’s basic needs such as sufficient diet, clothes, accommodation, education and medical care which results in detrimental effects on their health or normal development.
Psychological abuse, which can impact a child’s behaviour or cognition for a long term, is a pattern of constant behaviour that harms a child’s emotional or cognitive development. It includes criticism, threats, rejection and negligence to a child’s emotional needs.
According to the two surveys conducted by the association earlier this year, Ms Lam said abusers could be any person regardless of their education levels, occupations, or identities.
A premature baby girl was found abandoned on a street in Macau on Friday. Ms Tam said abandoning a baby was an extreme behaviour that was no different from killing them.
While Ms Lam said she believes there are more child abuse cases hidden in society, the association will strive to eliminate all forms of child abuse and child negligence as well as promote awareness of this intolerable behaviour to the public.