Beyond cases reported to authorities, little knowledge exists on the types, amount, and effects of childhood victimization. Through a national survey of adolescents, researchers examined the prevalence of sexual assault, physical assault, physically abusive punishment, and witnessing an act of violence and subsequent effects on mental health, substance use, and delinquent behavior problems. Gender and racial/ethnic specific findings are translated into national estimates.
Research findings include (from the U.S. Department of Justice):
1. Rates of interpersonal violence and victimization of 12 to 17 year-olds in the United States were extremely high, and witnessing violence is considerably more common.
2. Black and native American adolescents were victimized more than whites, Hispanics, and Asians in each type of victimization. Much of the violence experienced by youths is perpetrated by peers or someone the victim knows well. Most sexual assaults (86 percent) and physical assaults (65 percent) went unreported.
3. A clear relationship exists between youth victimization and mental health problems and delinquent behavior. For example:
~ Negative outcomes in victims of sexual assault were three to five times the rate observed in non victims.
~ Girls who witnessed violence were nearly twice as likely as boys to experience post traumatic stress disorder.
This nationally representative sample does not include adolescents from homes without telephones and certain high-risk adolescents (i.e., those who were homeless or housed in jails, juvenile correctional facilities, or inpatient mental health treatment facilities).
These are disturbing statistics and are supported by the well known syndrome that rape cases go largely unreported. Many times, children are embarrassed to report abuse, especially sexual abuse, which allows the perpetrator more time to continue with the child (and others). The National Center for Child Abuse and Neglect estimates that there are almost one million children in the US that suffer life threatening physical violence each year.
Some parents believe that physical violence is a way of changing the child's behavior. They do not realize how much damage can be done to the child both physically and emotionally. Acting from "innocence," such parents can do irreparable harm to their own progeny.
It is essential that parents and family friends become aware of the abuse schemes that exist. That they observe any changes in the child's behavior. And, most importantly, is is absolutely necessary that parents be open with children and that children know they can be open with parents!
This and much more, abstracted from the book "Empowering Children." If you want to read more, see:
Dr. Malkin holds a B.Sc. in Business and a Masters and Ph.D. in Religion. He has made hundreds of visits to schools with a moving and effective motivational presentation, urging teens to do their personal best. His mentoring programs have empowered many, many children. His quest for years has been to teach the power of Right Action, working towards the goal of a better world.