UNICEF: Violence against Children Is in Plain Sight

Hidden In Plain Sight: A statistical Analysis of Violence against Women and Children is a new report by The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) that highlights violence against children in 190 countries. It reveals alarming global figures and data of the devastating extent of different types of physical, sexual and emotional abuse. 

Violence against children – all over the world – occurs every day. Ninety-nine percent of the time it goes unreported because either the child is not aware of what’s going on or it is ignored by adults who do know, but do not see it as a problem – perhaps due to cultural norms or other reasons.

Perpetrators blatantly, and now more often, continue to stunt a child’s with their vicious and innate tendencies which have become so ubiquitous that they often go unnoticed, inherently being accepted as society’s norm.

Hidden In Plain Sight: A statistical Analysis of Violence against Women and Children is what The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) calls its September 4 release [at the UN’s NYC headquarters] of a thorough assessment of violence against children, which draws global figures and data from 190 countries.

“These are uncomfortable facts,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “No government or parent will want to see them. [However] unless we confront the reality each infuriating statistic represents, the life of a child whose right to a safe, protected childhood has been violated.”

The extensive research is the largest-ever compilation of data on violence against children in general. It reveals alarming global figures and data of the devastating extent of different types of physical, sexual and emotional abuse that children undergo on a daily basis. Figures on violent discipline toward children – the most prevalent being physical and sexual abuse against girls – bullying, and also homicide rates – which is a leading cause of death among adolescent boys are also included in the report.

Governmental, local, regional, cultural and social attitudes play a huge role in the perpetuation and justification of violence toward children by keeping it ‘hidden in plain sight’ are also highlighted in the report.

Regarding corporal and physical punishments, almost one billion children in the world, between the ages of two and 14, are physically punished by their caregivers on a regular basis, according to the report. That adds up to two-thirds of the children in the world. Roughly 17 percent of children in 58 countries are subject to more severe forms of physical punishment such as head- and face-slapping, ear-pulling or repeated hard hitting.

In Chad, Egypt and Yemen alone, over 40 percent of children experience severe physical punishment while 82 percent of its adults say physical punishment is indeed necessary.

Sexual violence figures score the highest in all forms of violence. One out of ten girls worldwide under the age of 20 – that’s roughly 120 million – experience sexual violence, abuse or other forced sexual acts on a daily basis. Seven out of 10 girls have never sought help due because it occurred so regularly in their lives, they did not know it was abuse. And even if they thought it could be abuse, they did not know what to do about it.

According to responses from nearly half of all 15 to 19 year old girls that were surveyed (more than 125 million), a husband is justified in hitting his wife under certain circumstances – especially in countries such as Cambodia, Mongolia, Pakistan, Rwanda and Senegal. That shocking number surges 80 percent or higher in countries such as Afghanistan, Guinea, Jordan, Mali and Timor-Leste.
About 95,000 adolescent homicide deaths in 2012 were the result of being regularly bullied in school – which is slightly more than one out of three students who were between the ages of 13 and 15 worldwide. And in the small Polynesian island of Samoa, with only 134,000 inhabitants, the ratio is three out of every four student.

While the report mostly focuses on physical, emotional and sexual violence in settings, data showed that other forms of violence toward children also pose negative impacts. And because measuring the scope of violence against children is complicated by the fact that violence actually occurs in a plethora of different forms; settings; perpetrated by individuals (parents, caretakers, peers, intimate partners, etc.) or groups, Susan Bissell, UNICEF’s Chief of Child Protection emphasized that it is indeed necessary to make sure that children feel safe in their communities, schools and their homes. Bissell added that it is very important that the rest of the world doesn’t just simply walk away [from listening to results of the report] with the message that violence is everywhere.

“If there is one common aspect of human society right now, it is the fact that tremendous violence is committed against children,” she said. “We live in a horrific world; but the report serves to say that there are [indeed] tried, true, measured, evaluated solutions which provide an opportunity to go into the public domain, and say ‘now you have to do something’.”

UNICEF created six strategies which are starting points in working toward the prevention and reduction of violence against children. The organization says parents need strong support and children need to be equipped with life skills; attitudes need to be changed; the judicial system in many countries need strengthening; criminal and social systems, and services need to be reformed; awareness about the human and socio-economic costs of violence, as well as evidence generation need to be brought to the forefront.

Also, eradication of violence against children requires reliable statistics on all types of violence to which children are exposed as well as the range of circumstances surrounding its occurrence. The pitfall is that much of the data is unaccountable for because certain forms of violence are better documented than others – depending on a country’s capacity and investment in data collection. And even if some data are available, the quality and scope of the information are often limited.

Mr. Lake final remark was that though violence harms individual children the most, it also tears at the fabric of society [by] undermining stability and progress.  “Violence against children is not inevitable, though. It is preventable if we refuse to let it remain in the shadows, he said. “The evidence in this report compels us to act, for the sake of those individual children and the future strength of societies around the world.”

Tweet at UNICEF’s #ENDViolence initiative which was launched July 31 2013 to urge collective action against these vicious acts.


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