Hidden in Plain Sight: A statistical analysis of violence against children, Published by UNICEF, ISBN: 978-92-806-4767-9
The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and other international human rights treaties guarantee that children everywhere should live free from all forms of violence. Nevertheless, violence remains an all-too-real part of life for children around the world – regardless of their economic and social circumstances, culture, religion or ethnicity.
It is proved that children who have been severely abused or neglected are often hampered in their development, experience learning difficulties and perform poorly at schools. They may have low self-esteem and suffer from depression, which can lead, at worst, to risky behaviors and self-harm. Witnessing violence can cause similar distress. Children who grow up in a violent household or community tend to internalize that behavior as a way of resolving disputes, repeating the pattern of violence and abuse against their own spouses and children. Beyond the tragic effects on individuals and families, violence against children carries serious economic and social costs in both lost potential and reduced productivity.
The UNICEF publication “Hidden in Plain Sight: A statistical analysis of violence against children” presents the latest statistics on violence against children, drawing on data from 190 countries around the world. By examining global patterns of violence as well as attitudes and social norms, this evidence based report sheds light on an issue that has remained largely undocumented. Its objective is to use data to make violence against children and its many ramifications more visible, bringing about a fuller understanding of its magnitude and nature and offering clues to its prevention.
Over the last decade, recognition of the pervasive nature and impact of violence against children has grown. Still, the phenomenon remains largely undocumented and underreported. This can be attributed to a variety of reasons, including the fact that some forms of violence against children are socially accepted, tacitly condoned or not perceived as being abusive. Moreover, many victims are too young or too vulnerable to disclose their experience or to protect themselves. This report provides evidence that violence is ever-present in the lives of children from all walks of life around the world. Interpersonal violence takes many forms –physical, sexual and emotional – and occurs in many settings, including the home, school, community and over the Internet. Similarly, a wide range of perpetrators commit violence against children, such as family members, intimate partners, teachers, neighbors, strangers and other children. Such violence not only inflicts harm, pain and humiliation on children; it also kills.
The publication discloses 10 main facts about violence against children: 1) In 2012 alone, homicide took the lives of about 95,000 children and adolescents under the age of 20 – almost 1 in 5 of all homicide victims that year. 2) Around 6 in 10 children between the ages of 2 and 14 worldwide (almost a billion) are subjected to physical punishment by their caregivers on a regular basis. 3) Close to 1in 3 students between the ages of 13 and 15 worldwide report involvement in one or more physical fights in the past year. 4) Slightly more than 1in 3 students between the ages of 13 and 15 worldwide experience bullying on a regular basis. 5) About 1 in 3 adolescents aged 11 to 15 in Europe and North America admit to having bullied others at school at least once in the past couple of months.
6) Almost one quarter of girls aged 15 to 19 worldwide (almost 70 million) report being victims of some form of physical violence since age 15. 7) Around 120 million girls under the age of 20 (about 1 in 10) have been subjected to forced sexual intercourse or other forced sexual acts at some points in their lives. Boys are also at risk, although a global estimate is unavailable due to the lack of comparable data in most countries. 8) 1 in 3 adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 worldwide (84 million) have been the victims of any emotional, physical and sexual violence committed by their husbands or partners at some points in their lives. 9) About 3 in 10 adults worldwide believe that physical punishment is necessary to properly raise or educate children. 10) Close to half of all girls aged 15 to 19 worldwide (around 126 million) think a husband is sometimes justified in hitting or beating his wife.
The evidence provided in this report clearly demonstrates that too many children do not receive adequate protection from violence. Most violence against children occurs at the hands of the people charged with their care or with whom they interact daily – caregivers, peers and intimate partners. Children are also frequently deprived of the protection they need and deserve from the State. The evidence that results is essential to monitoring commitments, informing the development of new programs, policies and laws and assessing their effectiveness. While intensified efforts are needed to strengthen the availability of reliable and comprehensive data on the issue, the findings presented here are a clear call for taking effective measures and actions to prevent violence against children.
The writer is an independent researcher. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org