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Emotional violence growing the most
4:00AM Tuesday Aug 25, 2009
By Simon Collins
Physical abuse of children has levelled off in the past five years, according to Child, Youth and Family Services (CYFS).
CYFS figures included in the Families Commission’s latest report on family violence show almost all of the rise in substantiated cases of child abuse in that time is due to “emotional abuse”.
The commission’s principal analyst, Radha Balakrishnan, said the major factor in all the increases was a police decision in 2003 to refer all children present at family violence incidents to CYFS.
“There is a lot of evidence that that was attributable simply to a police change of practice rather than any underlying increase in the levels of child abuse,” she said.
“While people wring their hands about our children, if you look at the physical abuse, it’s flat. Even the neglect figures are plateauing out, but there is some issue in terms of emotional abuse.”
The report shows that the number of children and young people found to have been physically abused jumped from around 1900 a year up to 2003 to around 2300 a year after the police started telling CYFS about every family violence case involving children in 2004, and has stayed there ever since.
The numbers found to be sexually abused jumped from around 1200 a year before 2004 to 1378 in that year, but have since tailed off.
Those found to be neglected jumped from around 2700 a year to 3573 in 2004 and crept up further in the following two years.
But those found to be emotionally abused trebled in just three years, from 2244 in 2003 to 6640 in 2006.
CYFS was unable to provide updated figures on the same basis yesterday, but its data on investigations found to require further action show that emotional abuse has kept climbing since 2006, while physical abuse and neglect have levelled out and sexual abuse has fallen.
The Families Commission found that men committed most of the sexual abuse (97 per cent) and physical abuse (59 per cent) and slightly more than half (52 per cent) of the emotional abuse. But two-thirds of the caregivers found to be neglecting their children were female.
Maori were listed as the abusers in 23 per cent of the physical abuse cases, compared with 17 per cent for Europeans, but the ethnicity of 43 per cent of abusers was not recorded.
Maori were even more likely to be listed as emotional abusers (32 per cent). A further 21 per cent of emotional abusers were listed as European and the ethnicity of 34 per cent was not recorded.