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Violent discipline, sexual abuse and violence in schools among key issues facing children in the Pacific – UNICEF

© UNICEF Pacific/2016/Mephem

Violence against children – some as young as one year old – is pervasive in homes, schools and communities, new global report with disturbing data reveals 

NEW YORK/ SUVA 1 November 2017 – Staggering numbers of children – some as young as 12 months old – are experiencing violence, often by those entrusted to take care of them, UNICEF said in a new report released today. 

“The harm inflicted on children around the world is truly worrying,” said UNICEF Associate Director Child Protection in New York, Cornelius Williams. “Babies slapped in the face; girls and boys forced into sexual acts; adolescents murdered in their communities – violence against children spares no one and knows no boundaries.”

A Familiar Face: Violence in the lives of children and adolescents uses the very latest data to show that children experience violence across all stages of childhood and in all settings:

Violence against young children in their homes:

  • Three-quarters of the world’s 2 to 4-year old children – around 300 million – experience psychological aggression and/or physical punishment by their caregivers at home;
  • Around 6 in 10 one year olds in 30 countries with available data are subjected to violent discipline on a regular basis. Nearly a quarter of one-year-olds are physically shaken as punishment and nearly 1 in 10 are hit or slapped on the face, head or ears.
  • Worldwide, 1 in 4 children under age five – 176 million – are living with a mother who is a victim of intimate partner violence. 
  • In Vanuatu, half of caregivers think that physical punishment is necessary to properly raise or educate children. 8 out of every 10 children aged 2 to 14-years old in Kiribati and 7 out of 10 the same age in Fiji experience violent discipline at home.
  • More than 8 in 10 children aged 2 to 4-years in Vanuatu and Solomon Islands experience violent discipline at home.
  • More than 1 in 3 children aged 2 to 4-years old children in Vanuatu (the third highest rate in the world), and 1 in 4 children the same age in the Solomon Islands experience severe physical punishment.

Sexual violence against girls and boys:

  • Worldwide, around 15 million adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 have experienced forced sexual intercourse or other forced sexual acts in their lifetime. 
  • Only 1 in 100 adolescent girls who had experienced sexual violence said they reached out for professional help. 
  • In the 28 countries with data, 9 out of 10 adolescent girls who had experienced forced sex, on average, said the perpetrator of the first incident was known to them. 
  • In the Pacific, sexual abuse before the age of 15 affects about 4 in 10 children in Solomon Islands, and 3 in every 10 children in Nauru and Vanuatu.

Violence in schools:

  • Half the population of school-aged children – 732 million – live in countries where corporal punishment at school is not fully prohibited. 
  • In the Pacific, 10 out of 14 countries and territories prohibit corporal punishment in schools, but this is not fully enforced as not all teachers have been trained on positive discipline methods, and reporting and response mechanisms are generally lacking.
  • In the Pacific peer bullying in schools is experienced by about 7 out of 10 students in Samoa, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. One out of every two students experienced peer bullying in Tonga.

“Children need special protection not only because this is their right, but because they are among the most vulnerable members of our society,” said UNICEF Pacific Representative, Sheldon Yett. “This report reminds us that children are still experiencing high levels of violence in the Pacific region. This must stop and we will continue to work with governments and civil society to address this issue.”

In the Pacific, UNICEF supports countries and territories to strengthen their laws and policies, build the capacity of services for prevention and response, and change social norms and behaviours that are harmful to children. 

As a result, eight countries and territories now have a Child Protection law, policy or bill; and seven countries and territories have formally established child protection inter-agency mechanisms including social welfare, justice, police, health, education and youth government services as well as non-governmental organisations (NGOs). These mechanisms coordinate the care of children who are victims of violence, through case management and referrals, as well as prevention interventions.

Furthermore, six countries and territories have operating procedures and a training module for the police on how to handle children who are victims, witnesses or perpetrators of violence; and five countries and territories have developed an educational package which aims at providing knowledge and skills, including parenting skills, to engage communities in a dialogue leading to the abandonment of harmful practices, and to establish community-based procedures to detect, report, respond and refer children in need of protection to competent services.    

To end violence against children, UNICEF is calling for governments to take urgent action and draw on seven evidence-based strategies ( that have been developed under the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children. 

Note to Editors

For more information about the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, please go to

Multimedia content is available here. 


UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children visit

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For more information, please contact: Georgina Thompson, UNICEF New York, Mobile: 

+ 1 917 238 1559, 

Cate Heinrich, UNICEF Pacific, Mobile: +679 9925 606,



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