THE BLOG

Chronically Ill Children at Risk

15/03/2013 19:31 GMT | Updated 13/05/2013 10:12 BST

A young child who is chronically ill or disabled in some way, weak and fragile, may easily fall victim to sexual abuse. Unfortunately a child whether physically or mentally handicapped can be at high risk; not understanding and often unable to communicate what is actually happening to them. A very young child will suffer in silence, thinking this is normal and accept it as part of their life. What sadly makes these children in particular fall prey to what can become constant ongoing abuse lasting years, is that the child is cloistered within the family due to their ill health, and does not lead a normal life interacting with other children. In addition, they possibly miss many days of schooling and participating in sporting events or strenuous day trips. In some cases where a child is unable to attend school altogether due to being incapacitated, the isolation from society and community almost create a prison-like environment, through no contact with the outside world. In particular with mental health where unfortunately much stigma still exists in today's society, amidst shame and ignorance a child may become captive and housebound, finding themselves in a dire situation.

Any strange conduct from a healthy child would immediately be taken notice of, and hopefully picked up and dealt with. Sadly if a child is suffering from ill health, be it a physical disability or a neurological/mental health problem, necessitating strong medications; perceptions of expected demeanour are vastly altered, wretchedly veiling the ugly truth of ongoing abuse.

What is most disturbing, is a child in this situation, despite being in and out of hospital on a regular basis due to their health, amazingly the abuse can go unnoticed. Doctors are so pre-occupied and concerned about the issue at hand; possibly an array of medical symptoms and side effects from strong medications cloud the entire picture of a child's health. Often the tell-tale signs of an abused child are regrettably missed or overlooked.

Even if an ill or disabled child does attend school, teachers may also not pick up or pay attention to odd behaviour, and simply put any peculiarities down to the child's health issues. It is far too easy to assume that signs such as being withdrawn, very quiet, timid, and uneasy can be attributed to physical or mental health problems. A child suffering chronic pain for instance, will naturally be lacking the normal exuberance expected of a healthy youngster, or someone experiencing mental ill health problems might display disinterest in participation feeling alienated from his/her classmates. Therefore noticing something is wrong apart from the child's health becomes extremely difficult.

Whether a child is suffering from a chronic disease or mental illness, their symptoms are all that anyone sees or is concerned with. This is a huge problem, and there is no simple solution. As harsh as it may sound, it is easy to happen, and sadly a child may endure years of suffering, until finally the nightmare comes to an end. If you are a parent and caregiver of a child who is unwell, please pay close attention; stay vigilant, don't miss the little signs, or dismiss a strange story that your child may be trying to convey. More than often the perpetrator is someone in the family or close by having constant and easy access to your child and who horrifyingly has earned your trust!

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