November 23, 2015, was a black day in the history of Singapore. Two-year-old Daniel succumbed to a month-long daily battering and passed away in his sleep. He was tortured inhumanely by none other than his mother Zaidah, and her boyfriend Zaini Jamari. The report says that he had 41 external injuries that were revealed on autopsy.
Apparently, the couple was used to beating the toddler daily. The flatmates, a wheelchair-bound elderly and a minor, could not do much about it. Daniel received a daily dose of beating for apparently no reason. The day before he passed away, he was brutally tortured because he would not eat breakfast. The couple forced chilli down his throat as a part of the punishment. They kicked him around like he was an inanimate object.
While I write this, I take a pause. It is numbing to even imagine such an abuse. What would have prompted the couple to treat the innocent kid so badly, I wonder. This year, we all saw the image of the boy who drowned while escaping Syria. Here, in one of the safest countries in the world, Daniel had to meet this fate.
Parents are divided on the ways to discipline their children. Most of us grew up to getting scolded and smacked once in a while when we misbehaved. But that is at one end of the spectrum. Nobody deserves this kind of abuse, certainly not for refusing to have the breakfast.
The reason could be anything. Loss of job, misplaced anger, the list can go on. However, the failure of all of us lies in not detecting the abuse in time. There must have been at least someone who would have witnessed this abuse. Unfortunately, he had to leave us.
What is the impact of child abuse on young minds?
Not all cases of child abuse are this extreme. Many are not even physical or sexual. Emotional abuse and neglect form a big part of childhood and elderly abuse in Singapore.
The kids who are abused lose the ability to trust others completely. This remains as they grow up, and this would interfere with their own family life. They may end up being addicts, may develop some perversions or themselves turn into abusers. Such criminal tendencies affect the society as a whole.
The question still remains: What do we do in such cases?
The beauty of our country is that the people are involved in each other. Neighbours help out each other in times of need. It is one big happy family. So, it is not very difficult to detect such cases. The problem lies in the lack of a proper definition of child abuse.
The Pioneer generation can play a huge part in the detection of this abuse, but others have an equally important part in it.
Signs of child abuse
There are a few alarm signals that one can spot in a victim of child abuse.
- Behaviour changes in children when they suddenly stop being their cheerful self.
- Display of rage, aggressive and antisocial behaviour
- Loneliness and lack of friends
- Fear of going to sleep
- Cuts and bruises that may not be logically associated with a fall
- Frequent falls and hospital visits
- Fear of meeting a particular person or temperament changes at a certain time of the day.
If you spot a kid displaying one or more of these signals, it may just be a silent cry for help. If you know the parents, you can judge if the ‘disciplining’ is going too far. Grandmas and grandpas, it is OKAY to interfere in your children’s affairs if you see your grandchildren displaying these signs.
As a responsible citizen, get in touch with the proper authorities. You can always contact the police on 999 if you hear an abuse happening in your neighbourhood. The other option is to contact organisations like Children’s Society and Touch Community services
The future of our society is in our hands.
Back to the case. On July 5, 2016, courts sentenced the mother to 11 years in jail. Her boyfriend will receive 10 years in jail and 12 strokes of the cane. Some may say that any punishment is not enough for such heinous crime, and personally, I would not argue with them.
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