One in 7 children at risk of abuse

Experts: Psychological effects can erode health decades later.

child abuse 88 (photo credit: )
child abuse 88
(photo credit: )
One in seven children is at risk from child abuse, according to local and international child-welfare experts, who are to converge on Tel Aviv Thursday for a conference that will help professionals who deal with children recognize abuse and prevent it. The conference is being organized by the recently established Haruv Institute for Child Welfare, which has just finished its first training course on the subject for health, education, social work and psychology professionals. "Recent studies in the US suggest that at least one out of seven children are at risk from abuse, either physical, emotional or sexual," said Dr. David L. Corwin, who is medical director of the Primary Children's Center for Safe and Healthy Families and is a professor in the Pediatric Child Protection and Family Health Division of the University of Utah School of Medicine. At Thursday's conference, Corwin will examine the long-term psychological effects of child abuse and their link to chronic illnesses in later years. "Extreme child abuse and depravation may, on the surface, appear to be more harmful but the long-lasting effects psychologically are far more damaging," explained Corwin. "Most physical injuries heal without lasting disability, but the psychological injuries from emotional abuse can last a lifetime." He continued: "Over the last 10 years, intensive research on the subject has revealed that a large number of child-abuse victims experience chronic health problems in later life. The results of these illnesses are among the top 10 causes of death in the US." Corwin plans to highlight the findings of a 2005 study by Drs. Vincent Felliti and Robert Anda that concluded "adverse childhood experiences, though well concealed, are unexpectedly common, have a profound negative effect on adult health and well-being a half century later, and are a prime determinant of adult health status in the United States." Haruv's director, Prof. Hillel Schmidt, who was also responsible for a 2006 government report on children at risk, said that the situation in Israel is no different from that of the rest of the world. Several extreme cases of child abuse were exposed in recent months, including the case of four-year-old Rose Pizem, who was murdered by her grandfather, hidden in a suitcase and thrown in the Yarkon River, as well as two single mothers who drowned their young sons. "It is very important for medical professionals here to recognize that child abuse and neglect is connected to health care," said Dr. Yoram Ben-Yehuda, director of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at Hadassah-University Hospital in Jerusalem, adding that many health-care professionals do not see the obvious link. Asked whether the phenomenon of child abuse is becoming more common here than ever before, Ben-Yehuda said "there has not been a growth in child abuse, but rather a rise in awareness and in the number of cases being reported. "There is definitely more awareness but it is still nowhere near enough," he concluded. The conference, to take place at the Dan Panorama Hotel, will feature a wide range of local medical experts and is open to the public. The Haruv Institute was created with a grant from the Schusterman Foundation.