We live in a dangerous world, where nobody is safe, particularly the small fragile children. Violence against children is the violation against children's rights, and it should not be tolerated. Learn more about violence against children in Nigeria and the ways of preventing it.
Key facts about violence against children in Nigeria
Violence against children comes in all shapes and forms. It can be emotional violence, the extent of which is hurtful words from other people. It can be physical violence, which can be anything: from light shoves to heavy punches, slaps or assaults with weapons. It can even be sexual violence, which includes sexual abuse and exploitation.
It would probably not be surprising, but Nigeria is a very dangerous country if you are a child. Violence awaits almost on every corner. Here are a few facts you need to know about violence against children in Nigeria:
- 6 out of 10 kids experience violence in one form or another during their childhood.
- 1 out of 10 boys and 1 out of 4 girls experience sexual violence; one in two children experiences physical violence; one in every five children experiences emotional violence.
- Most instances of violence against children are not isolated; children often experience violence more than once.
- Most children experience violence for the first time when they are between 6 and 11 years old.
- The most common assailants are the children’s parents or closest older relatives. Among other frequent perpetrators are male teachers, neighbours, romantic partners and classmates.
- Less than half of the children who experience violence go to someone for help. In cases of sexual violence, the number is even smaller (as low as 5%). Most children have no idea who to turn to in case someone hurts them.
It is obvious that many Nigerian children suffer from violence. But what effect does it have on them? Find out below.
The effect of violence on children
Violence can seriously influence the children’s future and their everyday lives. Physical violence may lead to mental distress, self-harm, suicidal thoughts and substance abuse. In some cases, it might even result in an STI (sexually transmitted infection).
Sexual violence has similar effects to physical violence. However, in addition to those, it can also result in an unwanted pregnancy, which might be a large problem in itself. Emotional violence usually pushes children towards alcohol or even suicide.
When people think about the effects of violence against children, they often do not consider how domestic violence affects children's development. Even if the child is a witness of domestic violence, they can become scarred for the rest of their lives.
Younger children tend to get more anxious because of domestic violence. They throw tantrums, wet their beds at nights and complain about the tummy aches. It might also be hard for them to let go of their ‘nicer’ parent when it is time to go to school.
Older kids have different reactions. Some might become more disobedient and aggressive, while others might become quiet and withdrawn. Their self-esteem can significantly worsen, and they might choose a similarly abusive partner in the future. Many abused kids turn to illegal substances and alcohol to cope with their trauma.
Many children that have suffered from domestic violence might have a post-traumatic stress disorder (or PTSD). It can manifest through flashbacks, nightmares of even physical pains. They also do not do very well at school. Their grades usually go down, and their behaviour worsens.
As children are very fragile, violence against them can have some adverse effects on their development. But how can we protect them? Let’s consider this question.
How we can prevent violence in children’s lives
As we have said before, violence can occur both inside and outside the house. Therefore, the ways of preventing it are different for each case.
When it comes to violence against children from someone outside their family, the following actions can prevent it:
- Providing children with pre-school enrichment programs that can give them a head start in their education.
- Offering training on life skills, including how to behave oneself in a community.
- Helping children to stay in school with financial assistance and support.
- Reducing the availability of alcohol and illicit substances.
- Restricting the access to weapons, including firearms.
If you feel like preventive methods are not enough, you can also consider a few ways of protecting your child. Never let them hang around strangers, no matter how nice they might seem. Always know where your child is going and with whom.
Invest in some self-defence classes and teach your kids to always carry their phones around with them anywhere they go and call any of the emergency numbers in case of trouble. Have a curfew set up and try to take your child to and from school, if you have that option.
Talk to your kids, offer a safe environment for them, so that they can open up about the things in their lives. You can find out about any possible violence against your child if you just talk to them. Of course, you cannot save them from everything, but you can at least do your best.
Things get a little bit more complicated when it comes to preventing domestic violence against kids, as the assailants are the people closest to them. However, there are a few ways of preventing it:
- Quite often parents hurt their children, who are the result of unwanted pregnancies. Therefore, it would make sense to work towards reducing the amount of unintended pregnancies.
- Another way to deal with a problem like this is reducing the access to alcohol and harmful substances. Sober parents are less inclined to hurt their children.
- Social services (home visitations, doctors’ consultations) for families at risk can often prevent violence against children and help the family to get back on the right track.
- Parents should also have the opportunity to learn more about parenting at parenting classes. They can learn about the non-violent methods of upbringing and problem solving.
All in all, violence against children is a very serious topic that often ends up forgotten. We can never forget about the safety of our kids. We hope that one day we will be able to live in a more or less peaceful world, where every child is safe and happy. Until then, we need to protect these precious beings from harm in any way we can.