I thought it might be helpful for survivors to read the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Position Statement on Child Abuse and Neglect that was approved in May 1991. That was 22 years ago. And yet, there is still no public discussion by the media or any legislator at the national level about this humanitarian crisis. The statement is lengthy, so I have divided it up in to several posts.
Child abuse and neglect is a major public health problem. Although research, cultural, and forensic considerations have resulted in different definitions, APA maintains that child abuse and neglect exists whenever physical pain and injury, sexual exploitation, or psychological harm has been inflicted on a child by an adult.
The spectrum of abusive and neglectful experiences includes:
- Inadequate food, clothing or shelter;
- Deprivation of adequate emotional attention and support;
- Inadequacy of protective supervision;
- Infliction of physically painful and damaging injuries under the guise of punishment or discipline;
- Denial of adequate education or healthcare;
- Exposure to sexual overstimulation or exploitation or other sexually abusive experiences;
- Infliction of personally denigrating and humiliating experiences; and
- Isolation from contact or communications with others, especially those who are emotionally important.
No child is invulnerable; every child is affected by such experiences.
Extensive clinical experience has demonstrated the destructive effects on both child victims and child witnesses of abuse and neglect. Child maltreatment contributes to the development of lifelong anxieties, disturbances of behavior, depression, suicidal behavior, substance abuse, and severe disturbances in personality formation. These disturbances may include:
- Social isolation, withdrawal, and alienation;
- Antisocial, hostile, and destructive character disorders;
- Disruption of the ability to form or to sustain loving, caring relationships with others;
- Development of paraphilias (a preference for or obsession with unusual sexual practices such as pedophilia, sadomasochism, or exhibitionism); and
- Inability to adequately parent the next generation of children.