Hand out protective bracelets to potential child abuse victims

Many children under the age of seven have yet to fully acquire the language and understanding skills to describe what constitutes abuse.
Many children under the age of seven have yet to fully acquire the language and understanding skills to describe what constitutes abuse.PHOTO: TNP ILLUSTRATION

It was very painful to read that out of all the cases the Ministry of Social and Family Development's Child Protective Service investigated last year, "just under half involved children under the age of seven" (Child abuse cases jumped 30% to record high in 2018, March 17).

It is also worrying that close to 90 per cent of those who inflicted violence were a parent or step-parent.

Young children look at their parents as figures of authority to trust, respect and love.

Developmentally, they are also still learning about how the world operates.

Many children under the age of seven have yet to fully acquire the language and understanding skills to describe what constitutes abuse, even if they have been educated on body protection.

While depending on an external party to report detected abuse cases is crucial, there is also a gap between when the report is made and when the abuse started.

By then, the trauma would have already taken a toll on the child and would be irreversible.

So, how can we deter impending abuse cases from happening?

Perhaps we should consider harnessing technology to protect children.

For example, at the first instance of suspicious activity flagged by social workers, educators or health personnel, these vulnerable children could be given bracelets that would be able to alert the authorities of any suspicious behaviour.

These bracelets should be made in a way that they can be removed only by the authorities.

These would also have an added advantage - seeing the bracelet will remind potential abusers of the consequences of their actions, too.

While a bracelet might stigmatise those wearing one, it is worth it when it comes to protecting kids from impending physical or sexual abuse, which has a lingering psychological impact.

It then becomes a badge of love and protection.

Rebecca Chan (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 20, 2019, with the headline 'Hand out protective bracelets to potential child abuse victims'. Print Edition | Subscribe