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Online Training Lesson #2: Fast Facts on Child Abuse

Useful Fast Facts

Fast Facts on Child Abuse

Although child abuse can have devastating and long-lasting consequences, much of it goes unnoticed and unreported. Faith communities can make a difference. They have an important role to play in identifying, supporting and assisting children who have been victimized by those in positions of trust.

An ancient African proverb states “It takes a village to raise a child.” How true this remains in today’s fast-paced, high-tech world. Children can be exposed to violence and abuse in so many venues of their daily lives, but, unfortunately, the most common venue for child abuse is the home. In the place where the safety and well-being of vulnerable children should be most protected they can be subjected to myriad forms of abuse. We sometimes hear of cases where, for example, children have died in a house fire after being left unattended or have been kept locked in closets or cages for periods of time. These cases are severe enough to come to the attention of the media and communities often react with shock and outrage. Over time, however, people forget, and we go back to being complacent about issues of social justice.

Children need the protection of everyone around them – of the entire village. To that end, every jurisdiction in North America has mandatory child abuse and neglect reporting laws. In a 1999 address, Rev. Ray Hammond of Bethel, Massachusetts said: “…children are our gift, our inheritance, our awesome responsibility. They are bright and beautiful and full of potential…As adults, we must do everything we can to secure their future.”

Some U.S. statistics:

  • Children of color are disproportionately represented in the child welfare system. American Indian/Alaskan Native children have the highest rate of victimization – 21.3 children per 1000. African American children had a rate of 20.4 children per 1000;
  • Income level has been linked to child maltreatment in that children from families with incomes less than $15,000/year are 22 times more likely to experience some form of maltreatment and 44 times more likely to be victims of neglect than children from families with incomes greater than $30,000/year;
  • In 2005, 1460 children died as a result of abuse or neglect;
  • 41 percent of child fatality victims were younger than 1 year old;
  • During 2005, an estimated 3.6 million children received investigations by child protective service agencies. Approximately two-thirds of substantiated reports were made by professional sources;
  • In 2005, more than three-quarters (79.4 percent) of perpetrators of child maltreatment were parents, and another 6.8 percent were other relatives of the victim.

Some Canadian statistics:

  • In 1998, there were an estimated 21.52 investigations of child maltreatment per 1000 children in Canada. Forty-five percent of these were substantiated, 22 percent remained suspected, and 33 percent were found to be unsubstantiated;
  • In the case of physical abuse, 34 percent of investigations were substantiated. Cases consisted of inappropriate punishment (69 percent), shaken baby syndrome (1 percent) and other forms of physical abuse (31 percent);
  • Substantiated cases of emotional maltreatment included: exposure to family violence (58 percent), emotional abuse (34 percent) and emotional neglect (16 percent);
  • Over three in ten children who witness abuse are also physically abused themselves;
  • Girls and boys are affected differently by abuse. Girls are more likely to internalize their response to violence, and experience, for example, suicidal ideation, eating disorders, low self-esteem and psychological disorders. Boys are more likely to externalize their response, displaying, for example, increased aggression, delinquency and spousal abuse.