Hidden in Plain Sight: A Statistical Analysis of Violence against Children
The protection of children from all forms of violence is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international human rights treaties and standards. Yet violence remains an all-too-real part of life for children around the globe – regardless of their economic and social circumstances, culture, religion or ethnicity – with both immediate and long-term consequences. Children who have been severely abused or neglected are often hampered in their development, experience learning difficulties and perform poorly at school. They may have low self-esteem and suffer from depression, which can lead, at worst, to risky behaviours and self-harm. Witnessing violence can cause similar distress. Children who grow up in a violent household or community tend to internalize that behaviour 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.
This report makes use of available evidence to describe what is currently known about global patterns of violence against children, using data compiled from a selection of sources. The analyses focus primarily on forms of interpersonal violence, defined as violent acts inflicted on children by another individual or a small group. The types of interpersonal violence covered include those mainly committed by caregivers and other family members, authority figures, peers and strangers, both within and outside the home. The report does not cover certain forms of violence that take place within the context of shared community, cultural or social norms and values, like female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), as this harmful traditional practice occurs under specific circumstances and has been addressed in other publications. Two additional categories of violence are also outside the scope of this report: self-directed violence and collective violence. The former has been defined as violence a person inflicts upon himself or herself (for example, suicide or other forms of self-abuse), while the latter is inflicted by larger entities such as States, organized political parties, terrorist organizations and other armed groups.