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Ways to prevent abuse

The key to prevention is awareness. It is therefore necessary to learn about child abuse, including the warning signs of abuse, so that you can help protect children. It is also extremely important that suspected abuse is reported, not overlooked, so that children can get the help they need, and have a greater chance of healing and breaking the cycle, instead of perpetuating it. You could be a child’s only hope.

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What is child abuse?

Child abuse is more than sexual and physical abuse, which leave behind visible scars.

Both boys and girls can suffer abuse, and it can happen to very young children, including babies.

  • Physical Abuse: when a person deliberately hurts or causes an injury to a child—this includes hitting, throwing, beating, pushing, grabbing, pulling or any action that physically harms a child.
  • Sexual Abuse: when a child is used for sexual gratification, or any sexual activity with a child, including photographs or films, fondling or rape.
  • Exploitation: using children for the benefit of the more powerful person with no regard of the harm being caused to the child, including manipulating them.
  • Emotional Abuse: when a person repeatedly attacks a child’s self esteem either verbally or non-verbally, such as criticizing, insulting, yelling, swearing, rejecting, degrading, ignoring, isolating or withholding love.
  • Neglect: failure to provide for a child’s basic physical, emotional, and other needs. This includes chronic inattention to the basic necessities of life such as clothing, shelter, nutritional diet, education, good hygiene, supervision, medical care, adequate rest, safe environment, moral guidance and discipline, exercise, and fresh air.

Where does child abuse happen?
Child abuse happens wherever children are, where they live, sleep, learn, or play. Child abuse doesn’t only happen in certain families or neighbourhoods. It crosses all lines, including economic, social or educational background.

Who abuses children?
While children get abused by strangers, most often, the abuser is someone the child knows, such as family members or someone close to the family.

How often does child abuse happen?

Form of child abuse reported to the Maldives Police Service 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
Sexual abuse 199 229 177 269 273 248 270 313
Physical abuse 47 57 38 72 110 105 106 279
Neglect 11 2 4 13 64 67 47 142
TOTAL 257 288 219 354 447 420 423 734

The question of how often child abuse happens in the Maldives each year, does not have an easy answer. This is because not every suspicion or situation of child abuse is reported.

As a result, the statistics of number of reports under represents the number of children who actually suffer from child abuse.

Often people hear stories about child abuse and wonder how it could have gone on without anyone knowing, or why nothing was done, especially in such a small community like the Maldives. However, our close-knit society is one reason why many people are reluctant to report child abuse, as they themselves could be someone from the family or are afraid of the person knowing who reported or some may even feel it is none of their business. It is the moral duty of anyone who suspects or knows about any kind of child abuse, to report it and help save the child.

What are the warning signs of abuse?
In order to help children who are suffering from abuse, you should be aware of and look out for physical and behavioural signs that a child may show. It is however, important to recognize that sometimes a single sign may not prove that child abuse is taking place, but being observant and taking a closer look at the situation may be necessary, if these signs appear more often or in combination.
- Possible signs of physical abuse:
  • Unexplained soreness, or bruises, burns, bruises, black eyes or other injuries, scalds
  • Apparent fear of someone, which could include a parent or caretaker
  • Faded bruises or healing injuries
  • Injuries that do not match the explanation
  • Aggressive behaviour or severe temper outbursts
  • Flinching when approached or touched
  • Withdrawn behaviour

- Possible signs of verbal or emotional abuse:
  • Showing age inappropriate maturity or immaturity
  • Extreme changes in behavior
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Slower physical or emotional development
  • Lack of emotional attachment to the parent/caretaker
  • Fear of making mistakes
  • Sudden speech disorders
  • Not being able to play
  • Self-harm

- Possible signs of neglect:
  • Frequently missing school
  • Lacking needed medical or dental care
  • Inappropriate clothing
  • Being constantly dirty or ‘smelly’
  • Mentioning there is no one to take care of him/her
  • Complaining of being tired all the time
  • Loss of weight, or being constantly underweight
  • Very poor performance in school

- Possible signs of sexual abuse:
  • Acting out in an inappropriate way with toys or objects
  • Nightmares, sleeping problems.
  • Difficulty walking or sitting, or other indications of injury to the genital area, or unexplained soreness or bruising
  • Becoming withdrawn or very clingy
  • Sexual knowledge or behavior beyond what is normal for the child’s age
  • Becoming unusually secretive
  • Sudden unexplained personality changes, mood swings
  • Reverting to behaviours of a younger age, e.g. bedwetting
  • Unaccountable fear of particular places or people
  • New adult words for body parts and no obvious source
  • Talk of a new, older friend and unexplained money or gifts

- 5 key tips to prevent your child from sexual abuse:
  1. Talk often with your child and encourage openness.
  2. Teach your child key safety principles, including ‘good’ and ‘bad’ touch.
  3. Teach your child to say no if they are uncomfortable, or if someone is touching them inappropriately, even if it is someone they know and trust, including friends and family members.
  4. Eliminate or reduce one-adult/one-child situations and minimize the opportunity for abuse. (Eg: Avoid leaving your child alone in a closed door room, even if it is with a tuition teacher)
  5. Educate yourself about the warning signs, and familiarize yourself with what to look for, and the best way to respond.

- ‘Warning signs’ of abusive parents/caretakers:
  • Not caring about the child’s welfare
  • Blaming the child for causing problems
  • Seeing the child as a burden or worthless
  • Not wanting to discuss the child’s injuries or providing conflicting explanations for them
  • Substance abuse
  • Using force and harsh physical punishments to discipline a child
  • Seeming indifferent to the child
  • Belittling, or insulting the child often
* These are signs that the child and family need help.

How can I report abuse?

To report abuse, calls can be made anonymously to the following:

  • Child Helpline: 1412
  • Police Helpline: 3000600
  • Police Family and Child Protection Department (FCPD): 3331510, 9790163
  • Human Rights Commission
    Uthuru Vehi, 5th Floor, Keneree Magu, Male', Republic of Maldives
    Tel: + 960 3336539, E-mail: info@hrcm.org.mv


  • Suspicion of abuse is all that is necessary to file a report.
  • Your information can be given anonymously.
  • Relevant authorities can only investigate or look into a case, if someone reports.
  • It is important to describe your concerns about the child in as much detail as you can provide.
  • It is also important to keep a record of the date and time you reported, which will be helpful in following up and keeping track.
  • The more reports come in about suspected abuse, the easier it will be for the investigation.
  • Even if you suspect abuse and confront that person and receive a denial, you should still report the suspected abuse.