A New Zealand Perspective
Nobody really knows exactly how much child abuse, such as sexual or physical abuse or neglect, goes on in the community because a lot of it is hidden and not reported. Research suggests that about one in four girls experience some form of sexual abuse by age 16. We also know that boys are regularly abused as well. While most abusers are men, statistics show that women can also be abusers.
It is important that child abuse is reported so that it can be properly dealt with. To assist with this, Police have established Child Protection Teams and work alongside Child, Youth and Family.
Abuse and neglect need to be treated seriously because their effects can be seriously harmful and may last a lifetime. It is very important that suspected abuse is reported so that it can be stopped, the offender brought to justice and the healing process started for the child or young person.
As one response to abuse in the 1980s, the New Zealand Police decided that schools would be a good place to provide Keeping Ourselves Safe programmes for primary, intermediate and secondary schools.
Parents sometimes may not have the information they need to help children to stay safe and/
or they may be reluctant to discuss personal safety issues with their children for fear of causing distress. Schools are places where children can be educated about abuse safely, with teachers who know them well and who are trained to handle disclosures that may arise. It is important that this work is done in partnership with parents, carers and other adults who interact with children.
Keeping Ourselves Safe is a personal safety programme which aims to provide children
and young people with the skills to cope with situations that might involve abuse.
About Keeping Ourselves Safe
- The programme was developed by Police and Education, in consultation with a wide range of community groups.
- Keeping Ourselves Safe is for very young children in early childhood centres and students at primary, intermediate and secondary schools. Different programmes have been prepared for different age groups so that at each level of their schooling children and young people learn new skills to keep themselves safer with other people. The programmes are:
|Knowing What to Do
|| Ages 5-7
|| School Years 0-3
|Standing up for Myself
|| Ages 8-10
|| School Years 4-6
|| Ages 11-12
|| School Years 7-8
|| Ages 13-17
|| School Years 9-13
What is Child Abuse?
Child abuse is defined in Section 2 of the Children, Young Persons and their Families Act 1989 as the harming (whether physically, emotionally or sexually), ill-treatment, abuse, neglect or deprivation of any child or young person.
Child abuse has generally been classified into the following categories. It should be noted, however, that in any one case it may be quite likely that more than one type of abuse is involved. Sometimes children will show the impact of abuse in different ways.
- Emotional abuse: The child’s emotional and physical development may be restricted because of the way they are treated by adults. Examples include persistent verbal abuse, denigration, active rejection, put downs, or lack of love and support. It can sometimes be difficult to see the immediate effect of emotional abuse.
- Neglect: Neglect is the failure to provide a child’s basic physical, emotional, or educational needs or to protect a child from harm or potential harm. Neglect can occur as an isolated incident, a series of incidents or it can be a continuous state.
- Physical abuse: This is generally non-accidental injury to the child or young person.. Examples include bruising, burning, scalding, breaking bones, biting, or hitting with objects such as electric jug cords.
- Sexual abuse: Sexual abuse is any act where an adult or a more powerful person uses a child or young person for a sexual purpose. This may be consensual or not, and can happen within or outside the family. Most sexual abuse is done by someone the child knows and trusts.
- Family violence: Family violence covers a broad range of controlling behaviours, commonly of a physical, sexual, and/or psychological nature that typically involves fear, intimidation and emotional deprivation. It occurs within a variety of close interpersonal relationships, such as between partners, parents and children, siblings, and in other relationships where significant others are not part of the physical household but are part of the family and/or are fulfilling the function of family.
Even witnessing family violence can be very distressing for children and cause them harm.