Approximately 300 million children around the world between the ages of 2 and 4 years-old are subjected to physical punishment or verbal abuse from their parents or caregivers on a regular basis. This is just one of the many shocking statistics featured in UNICEF’s new report A Familiar Face: Violence in the Lives of Children and Adolescents.
NPR conducted a Q&A with Claudia Cappa, the report author and UNICEF senior data specialist, to discuss the report. Below are a few takeaways:
- UNICEF used the phrase “a familiar face” in the report’s title because abuse often occurs in familiar places – like home or school – by people they know.
- Data from 28 countries indicate that 90% of adolescent females who have experienced forced sex report they have been victimized by someone they knew or someone close to them. “This further relates to why violence against children and adolescents remains hidden,” said Cappa.
- These statistics are most likely an underestimation because UNICEF collected data from household surveys, national statistical surveys, and police and hospital records. Some victims are reluctant to self-report due to fear of stigma, retaliation and a sense of shame and guilt, and child abuse data collection is not as high a priority in other countries. Therefore, their findings could be just “the tip of the iceberg.”
What can be done to help? Cappa first suggests countries need to adopt and implement more legislation to protect children. For example, only 60 of the 193 countries belonging to the United Nations have fully prohibited corporal punishment at home and about 130 of the 193 countries have made corporal punishment in schools illegal.
Cappa also suggests that countries need to change the social norms and ideas about these issues and develop strong child protection systems, including providing support to parents, working with teachers and school administration and with children.
Schools play a large role in these child protection systems. Teachers and administrators are in a position to identify the signs of abuse; however, they have to be trained to do so. PublicSchoolWORKS’ “Child Abuse Prevention” course teaches personnel to recognize, respond to, and report suspected child abuse, and provides teachers with strategies to support students who have been abused. The Human Trafficking course covers the indicators of sex trafficking and labor trafficking to teach educators how to identify these harmful situations. The course also instructs educators how to report human trafficking and help prevent it.