There has been too much bad news about child abuse in our mainstream media, notably physical abuse as these leavevisible scars of gaping wounds and broken bones. These scars can disfigure, maim a child for life or even end it tragically. While such scars can heal over time, emotional and mental scars may never heal. Victims of child abuse can become perpetrators as adults and the vicious, violent cycle continues.
When I was a child living in PJ Old Town back in the 1950s-60s, my father lodged a police report about an abused child. There was a little girl around 5 years old diagonally opposite our house who was hated by her mother. She only doted on her sons. The father was seldom around. We used to hear the poor child screaming as she was being violently beaten even late at night. But no one cared to intervene as her mother was a fierce woman. One cold night, my father saw the pitiful girl sitting and crying on the road. She was only wearing a pair of shorts and her frail, swollen body was covered with bloody welts . My father immediately called the police. They came and took the child away but she was later returned to her mother. The beatings stopped as my father threatened to make another report if she continued beating her daughter. But the verbal abuses worsened. We would hear her yelling at the little girl in Hokkien ” Good for nothing……useless…..only good to be a ‘chicken’ (whore) …….” and all the worst curses that anyone could heap on a child. We watched this child grow into a teenager. Her scars faded but something in that girl broke. It was her spirit. She would sleep with any man who would give her some attention. Neighbours gossiped and her mother yelled her shame even louder for all to hear. Her curses came to pass – she became a whore. We never knew what happened after that as we moved away.
On the next street was another little boy – a neighbour of my father’s friend. He didn’t suffer such terrible beatings as the little girl but his father would belittle and humiliate him everyday. He wasn’t good at his studies so he was branded a useless bum, a good for nothing ‘samseng’ (gangster). That was exactly what he became – a member of the notorious PJ Old Town gang which went around extorting protection money from hawkers and street pedlars back in those days. One day, the police rounded them up and we never knew their fate.
Were both cases merely co-incidental? After all, some children who are ‘well brought up’ can end up likewise. Both these two children never had any rights as a children. Their parents never knew that such rights existed. Some abusive parents today might be aware of such rights, but are not bothered when they lose control of their anger and frustration. Children are emotionally and mentally fragile. They can suffer abuse from parents, caregivers, teachers and even their own peers. Some children can be very cruel to others both physically and verbally. Every child yearns for unconditional love, protection, care, approval, acceptance and comfort other than being provided with food, shelter and clothing. Parents are duty bound to nurture their children and ensure that their rights are protected. However they must also know when and how to discipline. Abused and defiled children suffer from rejection, betrayal, trauma, confusion, fear, distress, anxiety, insecurity and a sense of isolation. Such damage to their spirit may never be healed.
As a teacher, I would always tell my students that God loves them and they are all worthy in His eyes. They should never let anyone stigmatize them as useless, good for nothing idiots even though they do not excel academically. God has given each of them a special talent and he/she just needs to discover what it is. A good carpenter, cook, plumber, electrician, PC technician, mechanic, contractor etc can be more successful than an ordinary doctor or lawyer. Skills are valued in any society. If they can become decent, hardworking and respected members of society, others will value them for their much needed services. When they know their own worth, others will see their worth. Sadly, those with low self esteem will not realize their own worth although others do.
An inspiring story :
A well-known professor lead off his lecture by withdrawing a 50 dollars bill from his wallet and showing it to the audience.
He asked: “Anybody would like to get this bill?” Raised hands started to appear.
Then he said: “I’ll give this 50 dollars bill to one of you, but before I give it away, allow me to do something with it.”
He then vigorously crumpled that bill up into a small crummy ball; then he asked : “Would you still like to have this bill?” Again, many in the audience raised their hands.
“Okay, okay, all right; but what would happen if I did this?” He threw the already abused little crumpled bill on the floor and jumped and stomped on it with both feet, again and again, twisting and rubbing it on the auditorium’s floor, covering it with dirt.
Again, he wanted to know: “Anyone would still like to have this bill?” Of course, the number of raised hands didn’t dwindle, not even a bit.
“My friends, you’ve just learned a lesson… It doesn’t matter what I do to this bill; you still want it because its value didn’t change. It’s still worth 50 dollars.”
“Many times in your life, you’ll feel crumpled, rejected, abused, trampled upon and scolded by people or circumstances. You’ll be under the impression that you’ve become a worthless piece of shit; but actually, your worth wouldn’t have changed at all in the eyes of the people who love you! A person’s worth doesn’t hinge on what she does or doesn’t do. You can always start anew and reach your goals, because your intrinsic worth would always remain untouched.” – Anonymous
Parents should train their children in the way they should go according to their mental and physical abilities, not in the way they want them to go because of their own high expectations. Children should be taught that they are worthy so that they will always have hope. They have intellectual and practical worth as they grow and develop skills that will benefit others in society. They have emotional worth as they mean the world to those who love them. Above all, they have intrinsic worth because they are God’s children. They don’t have to be good looking or score all ‘As’ in exams or excel in sports because God loves them unconditionally and nothing in this world can ever change this.
– Molly S.C. Ooi
For further reading : Rights of a Child pdf