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Child Abuse

Karen Polonko


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Throughout the world, literally hundreds of millions of children are victims of abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Restricting our focus to the US, over 3 million children are reported to official agencies for severe maltreatment in any given year ( English 1998 ). While approximately 15 percent of children have been reported to agencies for maltreatment, surveys indicate that this figure grossly underestimates the true extent of the problem, as over a third of adults in the US report having experienced physical, sexual, emotional abuse and/or neglect as a child. How child abuse is defined has enormous implications for the safety and well-being of children and reflects existing cultural, political, and structural inequalities. Narrowly defining child maltreatment, as we do in the US, as only the extremes of abuse with demonstrable injuries, not only results in artificially low estimates of child maltreatment, but also limits the government's ability to intervene on behalf of children, affords abusing parents the greatest protection, and places children in the greatest danger. As summarized by the World Health Organization (2002 : 59), “Child abuse or maltreatment constitutes all forms of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation, resulting in actual or potential harm to the child's health, survival, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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