All instances of suspected, disclosed or witnessed abuse of a child, must be reported to the appropriate authorities and to the Club’s Child Welfare Officer. An Incident Form should also be completed as soon as possible after reporting the abuse.
Children may be in need of protection where their basic needs are not being met in a manner appropriate to their age and stage of development, and they will be at risk through avoidable acts of commission or omission on the part of their parent(s), sibling(s) or other relative(s), or a foster parent/guardian (i.e. a person, while not a parent, who has actual custody of the child).
This includes placing a child at risk through something a person has done to them, or something a person is failing to do for them. For those working in the field of child care and protection the definition of child abuse is reduced further into categories of abuse, namely;
- Emotional Abuse
- Physical Abuse and Injury
- Sexual Abuse.
These categories are not mutually exclusive. A child experiencing physical abuse is undoubtedly experiencing emotional abuse as well.
Identifying Child Abuse
Although the physical and behavioural signs listed may be symptomatic of abuse, they may not always be an indicator and, conversely, children experiencing abuse may not demonstrate any of these signs. Child abuse is often difficult to recognize.
Emotional abuse may be defined as a failure to provide for a child’s basic emotional needs such as to have a severe effect on the behaviour and development of the child. This includes persistent patters of demeaning or threatening a child. It may be intentional or not, and can be invisible or gradual.
This could include making a child feel worthless or unloved, inadequate or not valued; inappropriate expectations being imposed on children for their age or stage of development; the corruption or exploitation of a child, or causing them frequently to feel frightened or in danger; persistent exposure to domestic abuse; failing to provide a child with love, care and affection.
Emotional abuse in rugby may also occur if children are subjected to constant criticism, name-calling, sarcasm, or bullying.
Examples of Emotional Abuse in a Sport Environment
- Persistent failure to show any respect to a child; This can consist of continually ignoring a child, giving the ‘silent treatment’, swearing at a child, etc;
- Constantly blaming or humiliating a child by telling them they are stupid or ‘slow’, sometimes accompanied by persistent and demeaning correction;
- Continually being aggressive towards a child by making them feel frightened, withholding of praise or using praise/affection as a control device;
- Acting in a way which is detrimental to the child’s uniqueness and self-esteem;
Signs which may raise concerns about emotional abuse include:
- low self-esteem - significant decline in concentration
- running away - indiscriminate friendliness and neediness
- extremes of passivity or aggression - self-harm or mutilation
Defined as an actual or attempted physical injury to a child, including the administration of toxic substances, where there is knowledge or reasonable suspicion, that the injury was knowingly inflicted or not prevented. It involves deliberately using force against a child in such a way that the child is either injured or is at risk of being injured.
Physical abuse includes deliberately hitting, shaking, throwing or otherwise harming a child. Physical injury may also occur where someone knowingly fails to take action to protect a child from physical harm. Most children sustain accidental cuts and bruises throughout childhood. These are likely to occur in parts of the body like elbows, shins and knees. An important indicator of physical abuse is where the bruises or injuries are unexplained or the explanation does not fit the injury, or the injury appears on parts of the body where accidental injuries are unlikely [e.g. on the cheeks or thighs].
The age of the child must also be considered. It is possible that some physical injuries may have occurred for other reasons [e.g. skin disorders, bone diseases].
Examples of Physical Abuse in a Sport Environment
Bodily harm that may be caused by:
- the nature and intensity of training or competition exceeds the capacity of the child / youth’s immature and growing body;
- over playing an athlete;
- administering, condoning, or failure to intervene in drug use; or
- administering drugs to enhance performance.
Signs which may raise concerns about physical abuse include:
- refusal to discuss injuries
- aggression towards others
- improbable excuses given to explain injuries
- fear of parents being approached for an explanation
- running away
- untreated injuries
- excessive physical punishment
- avoiding activities due to injuries or possibility of injuries being discovered - unexplained injuries, particularly if recurrent
Neglect is a form of abuse manifested through ignoring or discrediting emotional and or physical needs. Neglect occurs where a child’s essential needs are not met and this is likely to cause impairment to the physical or emotional health and development of a child. Such needs include food and water, clothing, cleanliness, shelter and warmth.
Physical neglect can also comprise the poor practice of inadequate supervision.
Emotional neglect can consist of a lack of encouragement, praise, or direct listening to the child. It leaves no scars but can be emotionally devastating, leading to feelings of abandonment, confusion, low self-esteem and delayed emotional development.
A lack of appropriate care, including deprivation of access to health care, may result in persistent or severe exposure, through negligence, to circumstances which endanger the child.
As well as being the result of a deliberate act, neglect can also be caused through the omission or the failure to act or protect [e.g. the failure to obtain medical attention for a child].
Examples of Neglect in a Sport Environment
- exposing a child to extreme weather conditions;
- failing to seek medical attention for injuries;
- aexposing a child to risk of injury through the use of unsafe equipment;
- exposing a child to a hazardous environment.
- failing to provide adequate water and water breaks; or
- failure to properly supervise activities
Signs which may raise concerns about neglect include:
- constant hunger/thirst;
- poor personal hygiene and/or poor state of clothing;
- constant tiredness;
- frequent lateness or unexplained non-attendance at practices or games;
- untreated medical problems
- low self-esteem
- poor peer relationships
Sexual abuse of a child is an abuse of power and trust – it is manipulating or forcing a child to serve an adult for sexual purposes. A child may be deemed to have been sexually abused when any person(s), by design or neglect, exploits the child, directly or indirectly, in any activity intended to lead to the sexual arousal or other forms of gratification of that person or other person(s). This includes forcing or enticing a child to take part in sexual activities whether or not they are aware of or consent to what is happening. Sexual abuse may involve physical contact, and non-contact acts such as forcing children to look at, or be involved in, the production of pornographic material, to watch sexual activities or encouraging them to behave in sexually inappropriate manners.
Boys and girls are sexually abused by males and females, including persons to whom they may or may not be related, and by other young people. This includes people from all walks of life within and outside the sports environment.
Some children may never be able to tell someone they have been sexually abused. Changes in a child’s behaviour may be a sign something has happened. In some cases there may be no physical or behavioural signs to suggest that a child has been sexually abused.
In sport, coaching techniques which involve physical contact with children and youth, could potentially create situations where sexual abuse may go unnoticed. The authority of the coach over children and youth, if misused, may also lead to abusive situations developing.
Examples of Sexual Abuse in a Sport Environment
- exposure to sexually explicit inappropriate language or jokes;
- showing a child pornographic material or using a child to produce such material;
- inappropriate touching; or
- sexual intercourse and/or sexual activity with a child as defined by law.
Signs which may raise concerns about sexual abuse include:
- lack of trust in adults, or over familiarity with adults;
- fear of a particular adult, or fear of an adult with whom a close relationship would normally be expected;
- someone else expresses concerns about possible sexual abuse of a child;
- social isolation – being withdrawn or introverted, poor peer relationships;
- reluctance or refusal to participate in physical activity or to change clothes for games;
- displays of sexual knowledge beyond the child’s age;
- description by a child or youth, of what appears to be an act of a sexual nature involving him/her.