The times we live are marked with great dynamics, high performance and information of all kind being given high priority and we often find ourselves facing numerous demanding situations. Our perception is naturally selective, a lot of things pass beyond our attention and other we intentionally choose not to see. Often those we certainly should not.
Violence against children is present, more or less visible, here and now, in both private and public realm, perpetuated by adults, as well as children themselves. It can have many roots which can be difficult to resolve. Nevertheless, protection of children against violence should be our common concern.
“There are many terrible things in this world, but the worst is when a child is afraid of his (her) father, mother or teacher.” (Janusz Korczak)
Research in a number of countries, including Slovakia, show that an alarming percentage of child population is subject to violence. According to the research conducted in 2013 by the Institute for Labour and Family Research and the Research Institute for Child Psychology and Pathopsychology, 23.2 % of the children questioned were subject to physical violence, 20.6 % suffered emotional violence, 7.1 % of the children were sexually abused and 9.4 % subject to neglect treatment. You can find more information in the National Strategy for the Protection of Children against Violence (available only in Slovak language).
The economic costs of assistance services (sometimes life-long) for the victim of violence, criminal investigation and potential execution of punishment all represent expenses covered by public resources. These costs are not minor, though. In the USA, the costs related to fatal child-maltreatment cases amount to US $ 1 272 900 per victim and US $ 210 012 per victim in non-fatal child maltreatment cases. These sums include short- and long-term treatment, productivity losses and child welfare, criminal justice and special education. The economic costs in other monitored developed countries are comparable. More information in the WHO publication.
Studies have proved that besides direct effects on physical health (more information in the CAN Syndrome Guidebook compiled by the Central Office Labour, Social Affairs and Family – available in Slovak language), violence inflicted on the child causes stress that is toxic for the brain development. More information
Traumatic events can hinder further development of the child and increase the risk of addiction and other negative social phenomena, e.g. criminality of the victim of violence.
According to § 7 of the Act No. 305/2005 Coll. on social and legal protection of children and on social custody and on amendments to certain acts, everyone is obliged to report any incident of child’s rights violation to the authority of socio-legal protection of children and social guardianship.
You too are a member of society in which we all want to feel safe – also your sensitivity to violence against children is part of the solution.
Child Abuse and Neglect (CAN) Syndrome is a set of particular forms of child maltreatment, that result in insufficient fulfilment of its basic needs – biological and emotional needs as well as the need to feel safe and secure, and thus a severe and even permanent disruption of development, personality, self-esteem and interpersonal relationships of the child. CAN Syndrome encompasses the most severe forms of violence, such as mental and physical violence, sexual abuse and neglect. You can read more about CAN Syndrome in the CAN Syndrome Guidebook compiled by the Central Office Labour, Social Affairs and Family (in Slovak language).
Even us, people entitled to protect and help a child, may hurt it. In such a case we are talking about institutional violence. Misconduct and non-action of the stakeholders fall into this type of violence. They can take the form of not-abiding by legal norms, not following standard procedures, ignoring indications of violence and not considering the interests of the child. Secondary victimization is one of the most severe forms of institutional violence. Secondary victimization as a further victimisation of the child victim by professionals working with it (e.g. an investigator, a social worker, a teacher…) mainly relates to insensitive approach towards the child (e.g. unjustified elicitation of memories of the perpetrator’s attacks.
Bullying is an expression of proactive aggression (goal-oriented), it is a repeated and intentional harm inflicted upon a child by other children in the form of name-calling, teasing, intimidation, physical assaults etc. at school or outside school. Three main characteristics of bullying are: intentionality, persistence and imbalance of power (e.g. physical power, access to certain information, social status, popularity among other children, in case of cyberbullying also IT skills,…).
Cyberbullying is a form of bullying carried out using new technologies which primarily builds on emotional and psychological abuse. Compared to “traditional” bullying it shares the three aforementioned characteristics, however, it differs by others: anonymity of assaults (in many cases the aggressor conceals his/her identity), enhanced lack of empathy (due to anonymity and detachment of the electronic context, the aggressor cannot see the victim’s emotional reaction), audience (assaults are witnessed by a wide up to unlimited range of spectators), time and space (assaults can continue over time, it can be difficult to delete the published information and photos).
A child can be exposed to both, face-to-face bullying and cyberbullying simultaneously. Moreover, depending on the situation, a child can shift from one role to another (he/she can be a perpetrator, a victim, a witness, etc.). While intervening or speaking with children, resolving incidents and preventing further acts of bullying, it is important to bear these facts in mind.
The position of a child victim’s parent is highly complicated, all the more so, if you yourself are also a victim and experience imminent fear of violence. Facing the aggressor is both extremely difficult and courageous, especially if the aggressor is a person who should have been the one to lean on. It is often the case that people from your closest surroundings ignores the more or less evident signs of calling for help, overlooks and derogates your unbearable situation. Do not do the same. Your main duty as a parent is to protect your child. Provided you tolerate violence committed against your child, you gravely affect the child’s trust towards you and expose your child and yourself to the risk of even more profound harm. Moreover, by postponing measures to protect your child you increase the prospects that legal measures will be taken against you in order to protect it. If your child or also you are victims of violence, please turn to organisations listed in the Get help section.
In case you have a suspicion that a child might be a victim of violence, it is necessary that you turn to:
It is important that you provide as much relevant information about the child and yourself as possible.