Childhood is usually thought of with a certain amount of nostalgia by adults. It may be the last time when they can truly be said to have no serious responsibilities, when life is simpler and everything about the world is new and waiting to be learned. This is not always the case however. Many children find themselves the victims of abuse from a very early age. This abuse is most often experienced at the hands of family members who have the most access to the child. It can take several forms, mainly physical, emotional and sexual.
Physical abuse tends to be the most easily visible. Children who are beaten frequently may have unexplained bruises, frequent broken bones and scratches. When these injuries lead to medical attention, most often a lie is given to throw suspicion away from the perpetrator. There may be emotional signs of physical abuse such as extreme shyness, fear of new situations or even a tendency to cower when anger is displayed by anyone.
Emotional abuse may be harder to notice because it does not always leave visible signs. In addition, some cultures may find it acceptable to speak to children in a way that borders on abuse so that the distinction is hard to make. This can take the form of constant berating or belittling and subtle forms of psychological torture more often seen in doomsday cults and other brainwashing schemes. If a child has become accustomed to this treatment, he or she may not even recognize it as abuse until other children react to their stories about home with horror.
Sexual abuse is usually dealt with separately from physical abuse although it does involve the body. While many people would recognize anal or vaginal rape as forms of sexual abuse, any purposeful sexual situation that a child is put into can come under this category. This includes being coerced into watching pornography and fondling, neither of which can be detected by medical exams. Most often, sexual abuse is discovered when a child confides in a trusted adult. Unfortunately there are other cases where abuse is discovered after the child goes on to attempt inappropriate actions on other children. In other cases, the child may grow up and eventually die without ever admitting the abuse.
Child abuse is alarmingly common and in some cases, the child may suffer all three types at once. Teachers, caregivers and loved ones can only prevent or stop it if they constantly look for the signs.