Child abuse more prevalent than ever, report shows

Study is first of its kind in Israel to examine extent of phenomenon with large sample of testimony from children themselves.

Child Abuse (photo credit: JPOST.COM STAFF)
Child Abuse
(photo credit: JPOST.COM STAFF)
The rate of child abuse in Israel is higher than it’s ever been, according to a study released by the National Council for the Child on Tuesday.
The product of a collaboration between the University of Haifa, the Traiana Center for the Study of Society and the Education Ministry, among others, the study was conducted over the past school year among a representative national sample of 10,513 children – 8,239 from the Jewish sector and 2,274 from the Arab sector – aged 12,14, and 16.
The study is the first of its kind in Israel, in that it examined the extent of the phenomenon of child abuse with a large sample of testimony from children themselves.
All the data that had been collected on child abuse in Israel so far had been based exclusively on information and cases reported to the authorities.
In the Jewish sector, almost half of the children surveyed – 48.5 percent – reported that they had experienced one or more types of abuse. In addition, the report showed that there is a very significant gap between the number of child victims of abuse known to the authorities and the number of children who indicated directly that they had been abused.
In 2012, social workers reported 48,992 children and youth on suspicion of child abuse and neglect, which constituted 1.9% of all children in Israel, compared to the 48.5% of children who reported being affected by abuse in this study.
According to the data, boys are more likely to be harmed in physical and emotional abuse, whereas girls are more likely to be victims of sexual abuse and be exposed to domestic violence within the family.
It was also found that the rate of abuse is higher with the age of the child: among 12-year-olds, 42.9% reported that they had endured some kind of violence, while 48.9% of 14-year-olds and 58% of 16-year-olds reported so.
In terms of physical abuse, 14.1% of children in the Jewish sector and 27.6% in the Arab sector reported that they had been kicked, hit or physically hurt.
In 75.5% of the cases in the Jewish sector, the person who had harmed them was a member of their family and in 13.3% of them, the child reported that their abuser had used an object such as a stick, a rock, a gun or a knife, or the like. The percentage of those who went for medical treatment was 48.9%.
About 70.9% of the Jewish children who had been physically hurt said that the harm occurred more than once and 18.8% of them said their injuries had required medical treatment.
When it comes to sexual abuse, the children surveyed were asked whether adults who they know had ever touched their private parts or had ever forced them to touch theirs.
According to the results, 17.6% of children in the Jewish sector and 22.3% of children in the Arab sector had been victims of sexual abuse.
About 8.3% of Jewish children and 11.8% of Arab children had suffered serious sexual harm.
Of the children who had been sexually abused, 46.5% in the Jewish sector and 49% in the Arab sector indicated that the abuse occurred more than once, and most of them also mentioned that it had continued over the past year.
Moreover, the vast majority indicated that their abuser was a man and over onethird of the children abused said it had happened within their family.
The study also looked at the problem of neglect and found that 14.3% of children in the Jewish sector had experienced some form of physical neglect, ranging from situations in which a child had nothing to eat or no clean clothes to wear to situations where there was no one to look after him and protect him or no one to take him to the doctor.
In the Arab sector, 33.4% of children reported that they had already been physically neglected.
Almost 30% of these children reported that the neglect eventually led to an illness.
It was also noted that boys are at a higher risk of suffering from physical neglect than girls.
On the emotional side, 27.8% of Jewish children reported that they had been called names by adults in their family or felt unwanted or hated by their parents, and 15.2% reported that they had experienced emotional neglect.
Among Arab children, 40.1% had been harmed emotionally and 22% were emotionally neglected.
The study also showed that in most cases, children are afraid and ashamed to report the abuse, and when they do, they prefer to tell family or friends but not professionals.
According to the figures, in the Jewish sector, 68.2% of children who were sexually abused had reported the harm to someone and 63.5% of children who were physically attacked reported the case as well.
The majority of Arab children as well have reported abuse.
The three main reasons that a child chooses not to report abuse, the report showed, are shame, fear and fear of harming someone else.
For those who did choose to report the harm done to them, the three main factors that encouraged them to do so were the desire to see the perpetrator punished, not being able to withstand the pain, and fear that the abuse would not stop.
Most of the children who reported their abuse said they did so in person, but the more severe the injury, the more likely children were to report it via a phone call, an SMS or the Internet.