What is the size of the problem of child abuse?
Child abuse is one of the most critical social issues facing Australia today. According to the latest figures from the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare (AIHW, 2008), the problem of child abuse in Australia is becoming more serious.
In 2006-2007, there were 309 517 reports of child abuse and neglect received across Australia. This equates to 850 new reports of child abuse per day.
Over the past seven years, the number of reported cases of child abuse and neglect has almost tripled in Australia. In 1999-2000, there were 107 134 reports.
Last year, there were more children living away from their family for their own protection than ever before. The number of children in care has more than doubled from 13 979 in 1996 to 28 441 in 2007.
The picture painted by these statistics is one of stolen childhoods disrupted by pain, trauma and betrayal.
Community understanding about the problem of child abuse
Our research has highlighted that child abuse, as a serious social problem, is poorly understood by the Australian public on a number of levels including its true extent and nature. In addition, the findings illustrate a lack of understanding of the short and long term social and financial costs of child abuse to children, families and the community.
For example, child abuse was perceived as less of a concern than the rising cost of petrol and problems with public transport and roads. Almost half of the people surveyed felt so poorly informed on the issue that they could not even guess at the number of reported cases of child abuse in Australia.
Worryingly for children, about a third of respondents in the survey stated that they would not believe children's stories about being abused.
Twenty percent of respondents also lacked the confidence to know what to do if they suspected a child was being abused. A quarter of respondents did not know that they could make an anonymous report to child protection authorities.
Better community understanding about child abuse in Australia is a crucial basis in the protection of children.
The cost of child abuse to Australia
Child abuse affects children families and the whole community. Children who have experienced abuse are at greater risk of developing a range of emotional, health and social difficulties, including suicide, self-harm, depression, drug use and alcohol addiction.
The financial cost to the Australian community is enormous. The Australian Childhood Foundation, in conjunction with Access Economics and Child Abuse Research Australia at Monash University, are set to release a major new report on the financial cost to the community of the problem of child abuse. Come back to this section of the website after the 18/11/08 to find out what the real costs are to all of us.