It’s 2021, yet there are still many more consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic to be unravelled. The pandemic has affected every human being in every possible way – including our little ones, and in some ways, especially our little ones. Child abuse, nonetheless, is not a recent phenomenon that is due to the pandemic; it has always been widespread in this world, in our society. However, the pandemic without a doubt can amplify this tragedy for many reasons.
A global survey by UNICEF reveals that in this time of crisis, children are more exposed to violence, exploitation and abuse. The stress inflicted on families because of this public health emergency led to 69% of children to experience psychological aggression. During the first lockdown in 2020, 19% of children experienced severe stress and five per cent have experienced mental illness during lockdown and 69% children surveyed in the region said their parents used physical punishment and/or psychological aggression, according to a recent household survey by World Vision.
We are halfway through our second national lockdown and while a lot of people see it as a time to relax and unwind, save more money, getting more me-time; unfortunately this not necessarily the case for some vulnerable children as schools continue to close and movements are restricted – giving them limited contact with informal support networks like their friends, teachers and neighbours. Children who are stuck at home with abusive parents are already at stake, however, devastatingly, cases of child abuse rising due to the pandemic also come from families who never practise abuse but eventually resorted to this maltreatment as a way of coping by the parents.
Some might justify “punishing” these children as they might be acting up and behaving poorly due to being stuck at home. Children do not ask for abuse, and they definitely do not “deserve” abuse. Just a month ago in December, a 20-month-old baby girl was stabbed by a man in Puchong Permai. Police concluded that a urine test showed traces of methamphetamine and that he was suffering from emotional distress. It is important to remember that the pandemic is definitely a trying time for everyone; including their parents. Therefore, let us all be kind and #KitaJagaKita.
Nur Syafiqah Izzati Binti Zukaffli
PUTRA Centre for Social Studies