Four Faces of Abuse

Child abuse is examined under four acknowledged titles: physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and neglect.

Child abuse is a common form of violence today, but it is quite difficult to detect. According to the law, all people under the age of 18 are considered children, and the World Health Organization (WHO) defines child abuse as; treatments of adults against children that affects children’s health, physical development, and psychosocial development negatively. Child abuse is examined under four acknowledged titles: physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and neglect. In their study of child abuse, Yaşar Tıraşçı and Süleyman Gören describe physical abuse as injury to the children, rather than an accident. The reason for doing this may be to dictate the children to do what the adult wants, to ensure their obedience, or to wreak their anger on them. In a study conducted by WHO, emotional abuse is defined as engaging in aggressive behavior against children by having high expectations from them, whose capacity is inadequate, and by not providing a suitable supportive environment for them. For example; "shouting, rejecting, denial, humiliating among others, threatening, failing to answer emotional needs, underrating, depressing, and over-protecting can be considered as the emotional abuse examples." (WHO 60). Sexual abuse means abusing a child for a sexual satisfaction -either forcefully or by persuading him/her- by an at least six years older person or someone else also may allow to a person to abuse the child for this purpose" (Tıraşçı & Gören 71). Among examples of sexual abuse are rape, incest, child pornography, exhibitionism, sexually provoking conversations, making the child watching pornographic movies, caressing the sexual organs, etc. (71). The neglect, which is one of the subtitles of child abuse is that the person responsible for caring the child, does not answer the needs of the child for his/her development such as; health, education, emotional development, physical development and nutrition (60). Sexual abuse is the most difficult one to detect among these abuses. In a study, it was reported that sexual abuse against children was common, but most of them were kept secret, and 90 % of them were done by a person, who recognizes the child. Moreover, children aged between three and five were exposed to sexual abuse more often (Turhan, Sangün, İnandı 154). In other studies on the frequency level of sexual abuse against children -even if it does not have satisfactory and precise results- it has been observed that children of different age groups, ethnicity, race and socio-economic level are subject to this abuse (Çeçen, 3). In this article, the topic of sexual abuse against children will be focused on the narratives over Do You Have a Secret?, This Body Mine and The Red Line.

Regarding the narratives, it can be concluded that all of these narratives are preventive and conscious for child abuse. In the narratives, the definition of abuse is made in a way that children can read and understand. They are taught how they should protect themselves and what they should do when facing such a situation. On the other hand, aforementioned narratives basically give the same message to the reader, but each of them does it in a different way. The narrative, Do You Have a Secret? explains abuse through the questions “what is a secret?” and “what do good and bad secret mean?”. The Red Line tells us that everyone has a red line, which cannot be crossed by others –by saying our body is our red line. This Body is Mine explains it by telling that our body belongs to us. It also describes the boundaries of this subject.

In a study conducted by A. Rezan Çeçen on the subject of sexual abuse against children, she argues that the effects of sexual abuse against children can be classified in four areas. The first is the injured sexuality. Children exposed to sexual abuse can experience difficulties and confusion in determining sexual norms and standards. For example, for children who have been exposed to multiple sexual abuses, it is observed that in addition to the negative attitude towards sexuality, their physical perceptions are deteriorated in the following years; they perceive their bodies as dirty; and their self-esteem level is lower than other children. If the person approaching to a child for sexual satisfaction has benefited from the love of the child and gave him/her a gift, it can cause the moral confusion about the sexual behavior for the child. In other words, the child sees sexuality as a kind of shopping and s/he may think, -for all of his/her life- that sexuality is necessary to be loved. If the child is forced to do something like this, it may cause the child to avoid sexuality, to have worries, and to be frightened. In this context, regarding the narratives, This Body is Mine teaches the reader, first of all, the concept of “body”. It also teaches that every part of the body is very valuable and no one can touch it without a permission. The child reader, who learns the concept of body, understands that s/he himself and his/her body is valuable, and hence, will be able to understand the negative situations that may occur. Furthermore, the sentence "They may want to give us some food to deceive us, but we know that we should not take them" creates awareness on children to notice people, who want to give them gifts for abuse (Oy 17). The Red Line teaches the reader that the body is special for the person. The narrative begins with Emir, who tells his mother about the event that Uncle Besin painted the park in red and no one else can park a car in the red area. From this point, the mother explains deductively that everyone has red lines: "Our country is our red line, our home is the red line of our family... and your body is also a red line" (Barraj 6, 9). Thus, the sense for the body is embodied in the reader.

The second effect is the damage of feeling of trust. Because the abuse is mostly made by someone close to the child, it creates the feeling of to be betrayed, and hence, damages the feeling of trust. If the abuse is made by someone that is unknown to the child, this time the child would feel distrust to the family because it could not protect him/her. Therefore, it would be right to tell the child that there are people to trust within the family. In all these three narratives the child, who experiences the negative situation, shares it with an older person, who is absolutely trustworthy and can protect the child. Narratives tell the reader who these people are. At this point, as I mentioned earlier, Do You Have a Secret? communicates with the reader by asking questions and giving answers to them. It explains how trustable people are as follows: "Well, who could be this older person? This person should be someone you can trust, like your mother, father, uncle, aunt or teacher. It is a very accurate thing to share a bad secret with them "(Moore-Mallinos 26). In the story called The Red Line, this situation is explained through the dialogue between Emir and his mother. It indicates that Emir's red lines can only be touched by his mother and his grandmother, who are for sure will not harm him, and are present there to wash him when he is in the bath. The reader will understand that the same situation applies to himself because s/he will identify himself with the narrative. Another thing that should be considered as an important point in the narrative is when Emir remembers and tells his mother that the doctor touched him when examining. Here, the mother character explains that doctor touched him for examination, and she herself was also present there at that moment. Thus, she emphasizes the difference between good touch and bad touch. After constructing the concept of “body” correctly in This Body is Mine, the story helps to understand the concept of privacy. It also emphasizes that in order to have the feeling of trust we should share with out beloveds every problem we face and ends the narrative with this sentence: "With the help and love of the elders, we grow every day, learn about our bodies, protect our boundaries and know how to say ‘No!’ when needed” (Oy 31). The sense “us” used in the narration, will make the reader to internalize the text.

The third negative effect is weakness or helplessness. When a child cannot prevent sexual abuse, he will feel weak and helpless. If the child, who is exposed to this abuse, manage to prevent it in a way -such as sharing this situation with a trusted person and getting help from him/her- the child will think that s/he can protect her/himself and control the event. If the person, whom the situation is shared by the child, does not believe and ignores the event, he causes the psychosomatic symptoms that could appear in the forms of anger, violence, etc. In this context, it will be important to teach the child what s/he can do to protect her/himself in the moments when adults cannot take care of him/her. The only narrative providing this point to the readers is The Red Line. In the narrative, the mother tells Emir what he should do when he faces such a problem; "Such a thing may not happen. You are safe with us, and you are a smart kid. But if someone tries to bother you, if he tries to touch you, then roar like a lion, ‘Hırrrrr’. Run away like a gazelle. Shout, 'I will not!' Scream, ‘Noooo’. Let your voice to be heard everywhere" (Barraj 16-18).

The last negative effect is to mark the child. Marking the child can be made by the abusive person or society. To prevent this problem, it is very important to communicate properly with the child and to understand her. The abusive person can scare, embarrass and humiliate the child, and make him/her to feel guilty, and hence, keep his abuse secret. By asking questions and improving the communication, Do You Have a Secret? emphasizes - even if such an event happens- the need for talking about this problem and not to be afraid of. It achieves this by telling the reader what the good and bad secrets mean. Good secrets are the things that can make us happy when it is kept (like organizing a surprise party, etc.). The bad secrets are the things that will make us unhappy, and should not be hidden. The technique of asking questions is a facilitating and embodying factor to understand the situation.

As a result, raising awareness of families and children is one of the important points to prevent sexual abuse. All these aforementioned narratives are important because of their contribution to the internalization process of these trainings. As a matter of fact, in each of these narratives, the applied methods are raising awareness of the parents, and informing the parents for a better understanding of the narratives. The illustration of the narratives in accordance with their contents helps the child to understand and conceive narrative. On the other hand, such negative narratives may be considered as inconvenient because they may increase the level of anxiety of children. However; on the contrary, in consideration of subsequent problems, such conscious and preventive works become crucial elements to lower the level of problems as long as it is done correctly and in a controlled way.



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