Child abuse isn’t just physical violence. It may be facing constant criticism, being degraded, or feeling fearful at home. It could be failing to receive medical care, being left alone unsupervised, or receiving excessive discipline. It might also be inappropriate touching, or adults initiating sexual conversations with children.
Most child abuse occurs within the family environment but it can happen anywhere - at school, in the larger community, or online. The signs of child abuse are not always obvious, and abuse frequently goes undetected and unreported.
Violence against kids often begins as physical punishment, and then evolves into full-scale abuse. This can cause prolonged and severe damage to young developing brains. Children under five years, and particularly infants and newborns, are most at risk of violence and maltreatment in New Zealand.
Experiencing or witnessing abuse in the early years is linked to learning and anxiety disorders, mental and physical health problems, drug and alcohol abuse, insecurity and depression, low self-esteem, and early pregnancy.
Every year the Ministry for Vulnerable Children receives more than 150,000 reports of concern relating to children.
A culture that abuses children's rights costs us all. An Infometrics survey commissioned by Every Child Counts estimated the cost of child abuse in New Zealand to be around 3% of GDP, approximately $6 billion per year.
This cost is made up of increased health costs, welfare payments, remedial education, justice expenditure and lower productivity.
In New Zealand there are many organisations that provide help, counselling and information to children and families in domestic abuse situations. If it’s an emergency and you think a child is at immediate risk of serious harm, call Police on 111.
If you are a young person worried about what is happening at home, you can call 0800Whatsup, a counselling helpline that supports children affected by violence and abuse.
Other organisations that provide free help and consultancy are:
Child Youth and Family Helpline 0508 326 459
Child Abuse Prevention Parent Helpline 0800 568 856