UNICEF study highlights that children are at greatest risk of being sexually abused by people they know and in their own homes
Skopje, 3 February 2011: Children are at more risk of being sexually abused by people they know and in places where they should feel most protected; child victims and families are often left on their own to deal with the consequences; and, institutions are sometimes blind to child sexual abuse, are some of the alarming conclusions of a new report “FORLORN AND SCARRED: A Situation Analysis of Child Sexual Abuse” released today by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
“Regardless of age, sex, social-economic status, education, ethnicity, family status or place of residence, child sexual abuse knows no boundaries. What is clear from this study is that child victims are most often abused by people they love and trust and in a home, a place that they ought to feel safe,” said Mr. Sheldon Yett, UNICEF Country Representative.
Through analyzing case records and data collected through focus group discussions with different stakeholders, the study provides a profile of the child victims as well as those convicted of the crime. It highlights that both boys and girls can be victims, but girls are at greater risk.
According to the study, a vast majority (93%) of perpetrators are male; sadly most often members of the family (16% of cases the father, 10% of cases the stepfather and 11% of cases uncle, grandfather or brother) or people known to the family (25% of cases a neighbor, 4% family friend, and 9% other acquaintance).
The study also examines existing institutional responses and prevention systems. FORLORN AND SCARRED provides evidence that, all to often child victims and families receive insufficient support to deal with the consequences. In only one in ten cases (9.5%) was there any evidence that Centers for Social Work continue to be involved in providing the child with social protection or other forms of support after the conclusion of the trial.
“The Centers for Social Work are at the heart of protecting vulnerable children, yet they are still not providing the support that is required. Continuous outreach and follow up with affected children and their families is key. Centers for Social Work need to be fully resourced and accountability and referral mechanisms need to be strengthened,” said Mr. Yett.
The report also highlights that current systems are often blind to child sexual abuse. Professionals working with children - teachers, health workers, police, and social workers - often lack necessary knowledge and skills and have not received training in how to identify and respond to child sexual abuse, how to work with a child victim and of what the accountabilities are of other institutions.
Among the recommendations for strengthening the child protection system, data collection systems, services and capacities to fulfill children’s rights to protection from child sexual abuse, the report calls for the need to amend existing laws and bylaws. It highlights the need for the system to treat children differently from adults, particularly during judicial proceedings. In a majority of the cases the age of the child was not given due consideration and children were frequently required to give evidence in public.
The report also calls on the need to empower children to be aware of the dangers from their immediate environment. “Parents and teachers need to speak openly with children about these issues - just as they do about road and fire safety. More importantly parents must never believe that reporting suspicions of sexual abuse will bring shame and dishonor upon the family – this attitude will only contribute to widespread denial and not protect children,” said Mr. Yett.
The study was conducted by a national team of experts, supported by an international consultant. The findings are based on the analysis of existing records in Centers for Social Work, judicial verdicts for persons convicted of child sexual abuse, data collected through focus group discussions with different stakeholders, official national statistics and review of the national legislation. The patterns and system gaps identified in the study presents significant evidence that can be used to develop and implement prevention and response polices and strategies for the protection and wellbeing of children in the future.
Download a copy of the full report “FORLORN AND SCARRED: A situation analysis of child sexual abuse”, summary presentation and information for parents “Protect your child from sexual abuse” (currently available in Macedonian) by visiting www.unicef.org.mk.
Also, visit the Council of Europe website and download materials designed to prevent sexual abuse by encouraging dialogue between parents and children includes (currently available in English and selected other languages).
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Forlorn and scarred - A situation analysis of child sexual abuse