Author: Tang, K.
In 2001 and early 2002, there was a growing concern among various agencies about anecdotal evidence of cases of child abuse in Timor-Leste, including child sexual abuse. This preliminary study was undertaken by Pradet Timor Lorosa'e in collaboration with UNICEF, the Division for Social Services and the UNMISET Human Rights unit.
During a period of one month, a multidisciplinary team conducted interviews in research sites, collecting information about cases of child abuse and CSEC. Data was collected from agencies who were believed to have information on this type of abuse, hence the methodology used for the study was purposive sampling. The limitation of the study is that while it offers useful qualitative findings, due to the methodology used, it is not possible to extrapolate the findings and make assessments about the prevalence of the problem of child abuse and CSEC in Timor-Leste.
Findings and Conclusions:
Over one hundred and three cases of child abuse and CSEC were reported, with the majority of cases affecting one child (89%). The general trend suggests that the majority of offenders are young males who are often a member of the family or someone known to the victim. Of all cases documented, the victim was usually a female (61%), with the mean age of all the victims at the time of the abuse at 11.5 years. The youngest child known to have been the victim of child abuse was 2 years old. The abuse was often ongoing (54%), with many children still at risk, without adequate and specialist support.
Approximately one third of the cases had gone unreported. Reasons included: a) resolution and mediation of problem within the family; b) agencies felt the abuse was a "family matter"; or c) some agencies, such as national NGOs, did not want to get involved in the problem.
If child abuse and other forms of violence and exploitation of children are to be seriously addressed in East Timor, an integrated response from a wide variety of agencies: police, lawyers, health and welfare professionals, teachers and the community need to be informed and be willing to be part of a concerted effort to bring about such change.
Further Research and Assessment:
1. Further investigation on the prevalence of child abuse and exploitation in East Timor.
2. Develop a clinical assessment tool to measure the psychological, emotional and behavioral consequences of family violence/ and witnessing/experiencing violence.
3. Establish a national database on child abuse and exploitation to assist in the development of services and legislation.
Prevention and Community Education:
4. To initiate a coordinated response to possible reported cases of child abuse and exploitation that involves a mobile unit.
5. Explore community attitudes towards/perceptions of child abuse, domestic/family violence and child exploitation.
6. Develop and implement a community awareness strategy to address child abuse, domestic/family violence and exploitation.
Development of capacity and legislation:
7. To develop and implement a training program for professionals in all relevant sectors on how to respond and treat victims of abuse and violence.
8. To initiate a framework to establish guiding principles for all professionals responsible in the area of child abuse and exploitation.
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Child Protection - Violence and Abuse
Division for Social Services, UNMISET