Yet again, the latest Child Protection Australia report reveals that infants remain the most likely age group to suffer child abuse or neglect, accounting for over 11% of child abuse cases, more than double any other age group.
Act for Kids Executive Director of Services Dr Katrina Lines confirms that this is a growing concern, because children at this age are unable to communicate. Developmentally, they are unable to verbalise their thoughts and emotions, which unfortunately leaves them vulnerable.
In Act for Kids’ protective behaviours program ‘Learn to be safe with Emmy and friends’, children as young as five are taught to ‘tell, tell and tell again until someone listens and helps’. The program works to educate children around what are safe and unsafe secrets, what are private and public body parts and who are the safe adults in their lives they can trust to help them when they feel unsafe.
Although people often believe sexual and physical abuse are the most harmful types of abuse a child could experience, the recent studies from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare show that, nationally, emotional abuse remains the most prevalent form of child abuse, accounting for over half (59%) of confirmed cases of child abuse.
Dr Katrina Lines says the reality is emotional abuse in childhood can result in debilitating, long-term consequences including mental health problems, eating disorders and obesity, alcohol and substance abuse and even suicidal behaviour later on in life.
Dr Katrina Lines says it is important to stay alert to the warning signs of abuse and neglect and to report any concerns immediately. If you have a reason to suspect a child is experiencing harm, or is at risk of experiencing harm, please contact the relevant authorities in your state: www.actforkids.com.au/the-issue/reporting-concerns/
Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2018. Child protection Australia 2017–18. Child welfare series no. 70. Cat. no. CWS 65. Canberra: AIHW.