Regional Consultation for the UN Study on Violence Against Children
. 5 - 7 July 2005 Ljubljana, Slovenia  
Europe and Central Asia






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Communication kit

A Communication Kit has been designed by UNICEF and the Council of Europe for the Regional Consultation on Violence Against Children in Europe and Central Asia, 5-7 July, Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Violence in Residential Facilities
Violence in the Community
Violence in Schools
Violence in the Home and Family

Who we are
Changing attitudes
About the UN Study
What you can do


Child's drawing, UNICEF Moldova
Ion Sestacovschi, 9 years old

Changing attitudes

“Kids need a bit of discipline. It never did me any harm.”

Studies into mental health consistently show the link between violence and poor health. Adults who were abused as children make up a link in a tragic chain: they are less likely to enjoy happy and fulfilled lives, and they are more likely to turn to violence themselves – the one way of solving problems that they learnt as a child.

“Everyone is dead set against a ban on corporal punishment. It’s not possible to change people’s attitudes.”
The Swedish case proves the opposite. When Sweden first talked about a ban, there was a good deal of opposition. It was made law in 1979. Awareness-raising campaigns and good parenting classes brought about a sea change in attitudes. By 1995, only 6 per cent of parents thought it was acceptable to smack a child.

“Ok, the cases we see in the papers are bad, but violence and sexual abuse in families is really very rare. The family is a safe haven for kids.”
The cases that hit the headlines are the tip of the iceberg. Research done by organizations, such as the Council of Europe, is critical of the media for sensationalizing the unusual – such as abductions by strangers – whilst most violence and abuse takes place in the home. A UNICEF Innocenti Report Card showed that 3,500 children under 15 die as a result of physical assault and neglect each year in industrialized countries.

“We can’t interfere in other people’s cultures… even if we don’t like what they do.”
Nothing excuses the sort of violence that happens when girls are circumcised, children forced into early marriages or punished – even killed – for some transgression to cultural rules. Awareness-raising projects, such as the EC Daphne programme, have shown that it is possible to work with community and religious leaders to change attitudes.

Fathers have changed their minds on genital circumcision when confronted with the reality of the pain their daughter goes through. Communities have begun to look at ways to preserve the ceremonies that mark the transition from childhood to adulthood in a celebratory and non-violent way.

“My neighbour slaps her kids around – but it’s none of my business.”
Ignoring violence is tantamount to condoning violence. It might not be right to confront the perpetrator face on, but there are many ways to help. The police or authorities can be alerted or you can support the child and get in touch with a telephone helpline. You can also join the campaign against child violence through one of the many campaigning groups Europe-wide and get your voice heard.

“Kids are tough. They soon forget.”
Interviews with kids of as young as five from a range of countries showed the extent of the damage. “It hurts you inside,” said one seven-year-old. A poll of children carried out by UNICEF found that children want the opportunity to talk things out, not to be hit or shouted at.

“Most parents don’t smack their kids.”
Studies show that where corporal punishment is still legal, most parents believe in it and use it. Research in the Slovak Republic in 2002 found that 98.6 per cent of parents believed they should smack children, and 42 per cent thought it was OK to do it with an implement.

“Well, violence is not pleasant, but it’s hardly a priority problem. It’s not as if it’s harming the economy, is it?”
Violence costs money. It means money for the health service – first of all to deal with battered limbs, and then later on to patch up battered lives as older children and adults abused as children turn to drugs, alcohol or truancy to escape their problems. A 1999 WHO report on prevention suggests that human and financial costs of child sexual abuse to society is costly: “Preventive costs are many times less than the combination of initial and long-term costs … to the individual, family and society.”

“Sticks and stones may hurt their bones but words can never hurt. So if I don’t smack my child, I can’t do them any harm, can I?”
Punishment that doesn’t use violence can be just as harmful. Work by the Council of Europe has shown that mental violence – such as threatening, ridiculing or scaring children – poses a serious health problem in Europe. Children are also affected by violence between parents. The best solution is for Governments to provide support for parents to help them work out how to react appropriately.

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