A familiar face: Violence in the lives of children and adolescents

Category: Equal protection from violence

17th November 2017

About three-quarters of the world's children aged two to four years old experience physical or verbal violence, or both, by their caregivers at home, according to a new UNICEF report.

All children have the right to be protected from violence inflicted on them by anyone in their lives - whether parents, teachers, friends, romantic partners or strangers. And all forms of violence experienced by children, regardless of the nature or severity of the act, are harmful. Beyond the unnecessary hurt and pain it causes, violence undermines children's sense of self-worth and hinders their development.

Yet violence against children is often rationalized as necessary or inevitable. It may be tacitly accepted due to the familiarity of perpetrators, or minimized as inconsequential. The memory or reporting of violence may be buried due to shame or fear of reprisal. Impunity of perpetrators and prolonged exposure may leave victims believing violence is normal. In such ways, violence is masked, making it difficult to prevent and end.

A Familiar Face: Violence in the lives of children and adolescents uses the most current data to shed light on four specific forms of violence: violent discipline and exposure to domestic abuse during early childhood; violence at school; violent deaths among adolescents; and sexual violence in childhood and adolescence.

The statistics reveal that children experience violence across all stages of childhood, in diverse settings, and often at the hands of the trusted individuals with whom they interact on a daily basis.

The research noted that about 60 percent of one-year-olds in 30 countries with available data are regularly subjected to physical punishment in the name of discipline, including being physically shaken, hit or slapped on the face, head or ears. Worldwide, 176 million, or one in four, children under age five are living with a mother who is a victim of intimate partner violence. The research also found that as many as 15 million girls worldwide aged 15 to 19 years old have been raped or sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Only one per cent of those girls who were victims of sexual violence said they had reached out for professional help.

Ensuring that violence in all its forms is documented through solid data is a first step towards its elimination.

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