EVERY child deserves a happy and carefree childhood without violence and harm. Unfortunately, Malaysia witnesses over 1,000 reported cases of child abuse and neglect each year, with many incidents going unreported. Failing to address this issue promptly can have serious repercussions on children’s physical and mental health and overall development.

As such, the onus is on all of us, as members of society, to do our part in preventing child abuse.

We should be aware of any indications of distress in children, such as unexplained injuries, prolonged periods of crying or outbursts, and evident neglect, which may manifest as inadequate clothing or poor nutrition.

Teachers, in particular, must be alert to any changes in a student’s behaviour, academic performance, attendance or physical well-being as these can be indicators to identify potential abuse.

A pivotal step and proactive measure is to engage in open, non-confrontational conversations with parents or caregivers if we suspect that abuse may be taking place.

We have a moral obligation to express our concern and extend support as this can help beleaguered families in seeking help before the situation worsens.

If we suspect that a child’s safety is compromised, we should report the matter to the relevant authorities, such as the Department of Social Welfare or the police.

For the protection and well-being of the children involved, any reporting must be handled with confidentiality, and the identity of the person making the report remains anonymous.

We should be compassionate listeners and show empathy when children confide in us about their domestic problems.

Neglecting the situation, thinking it is not our concern, can have serious consequences, even endangering their lives.

We should encourage them to have open communication, providing a safe space for them to share their concerns.

If a friend suspects that another friend is being abused, he should confide in a trusted adult, such as a teacher or school counsellor, who can take appropriate action to ensure the child’s safety.

Child abuse is a grave issue and must be addressed urgently.

In Malaysia, as in any other society, the responsibility to prevent child abuse does not rest solely on the shoulders of parents and caregivers.

As neighbours, friends and teachers, we also have vital roles to play.

By being vigilant and supportive, and being prepared to take action when necessary, we can collectively contribute to the early intervention and prevention of child abuse, ensuring a safer and secure future for Malaysia’s children.

The writer is from the Faculty of Business and Communication at Universiti Malaysia Perlis. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com

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