In Brief

The United Nations recently released a report on the nature and causes of violence against children on a global level. The U.N. Secretary General's Study on Violence Against Children was a joint initiative that began in 2003 and was sponsored by the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization.

The report notes that the need for action is evident in statistics such as these:

  • The World Health Organization estimates that almost 53,000 child deaths in 2002 were homicides.

  • An estimated 150 million girls and 73 million boys under 18 have experienced forced sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual violence.

  • UNICEF estimates that in sub-Saharan Africa, Egypt and Sudan, 3 million girls and women are subjected to female genital mutilation every year.

  • The International Labor Organization estimates that 218 million children were involved in child labor in 2004--126 million were engaged in hazardous work.

The report documents such abuse and also recommends strategies for governments to prevent and respond to it, including:

  • Prioritizing prevention of violence.

  • Enhancing the power of those who work to protect children.

  • Developing and implementing systematic data collection and research.

  • Addressing the gender component of violence.

  • Creating accessible and child-friendly reporting systems and services.

The study also recommends that the secretary-general appoint a special representative for children.

The study drew its information from resources such as questionnaires filled out by country representatives, official statistics, regional meetings and conferences, and reports from nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The meetings included nine regional gatherings of experts on topics such as violence against refugees, displaced children and girls; violence in the media; violence against children in the home; and violence in sports and in the juvenile system.

"There should be clear consequences for people who commit violence against children," adds Columbia University emeritus psychology professor Harold Cook, PhD, an APA representative on the U.N./NGO team and co-chair of the Committee on the Family.

Cook helped plan the June 2005 North American Consultation meeting in Toronto that was also attended by Julia da Silva, director for APA's Adults and Children Together (ACT) Against Violence program, and psychologists Sharon Portwood, PhD, Janet Saul, PhD, and Raymond Lorion, PhD. Saul was a meeting facilitator and da Silva was rapporteur for a group on violence in the home.

The Toronto meeting included working groups focused on peer aggression and bullying, violence in juvenile justice settings, violence in the media, violence in the family, and violence against Native American and Aboriginal children. The nine regional groups also made recommendations for the final report. The North American recommendations included providing resources to promote understanding in families, educating children about bullying, providing youth alternatives to jail time and educating parents about the Internet, says Cook.

The report was officially released on Nov. 20 in Geneva. For a copy, go to www.violencestudy.org.

-L. Meyers

Further Reading

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. For more information, visit APA’s ACT Against Violence program online at www.actagainstviolence.org.