“VIOLENCE AGAINST CHILDREN & CHILD PROTECTION SYSTEMS” is a report presented by IPSON and the NGO World Vision on the public perceptions of child violence in Latin America and the Caribbean. Its objective is to assess and measure public opinion and awareness to violence against children, as well as to identify the main sources of information adults use to inform themselves on the topic. In general, the report helps both the organizations (public and private) and the civil society to understand their own perceptions of causes and consequences of child violence. Overall, it shows that the region is less sensitive to violence against children that prior years. This could be the result of the mix of various myths and misconceptions adults have on the threats to children. The fact that public institutions are discredited and not trusted as guarantors of children’s rights plays also a role in the reduced interest of the region to this topic.
To recollect data, IPSOS and World Vision used a questionnaire of 18 questions with various topics such as: perceptions of threats to children (places, individuals, actions, traditions, behaviors) and how they vary from boys to girls, perceptions of institutions to prevent violence against children, sources of information and perceptions of causes and consequences of violence against children. This kind of questions offered the authors some indicators to classify the Latin American Countries studied into tiers of higher/lower risk of violence. Countries such as Mexico, Peru and Brazil are the ones where the higher percent of their population is at risk of violence against children with 34%, 29% and 29% respectively. On the other hand, Countries like Ecuador (15%), Nicaragua (13%) and Costa Rica (12%) are the ones where the data showed children were at less risk of being subjected to violence.
One of the most recurrent myths in the region is that children are safer at their homes than in public spaces. However, studies by the UNICEF for example show that domestic violence is one of the leading behaviors linked to violence against children. Also, there’s a common misconception that drug abuse and alcoholism are the most relevant causes of violence against children. Then again, the reality shows that there are plenty of other causes (some more important than alcoholism) that drive violence, such as forced marriage, cultural practices and corporal punishments. Even the consequences are underrated: less than half of the population studied believed that violence against children could have any economic implications, when in fact this conditions reduce the growth of a country by up to 1.4% and consume between 7% and 11% of the GDP.
Still, there’s a broad consensus that any form of violence against children is a serious and harmful experience to the development of a child. This understanding is followed by a shared belief that it is possible to reduce this king of violence in a lapse of a generation rather than being a long term goal. Due to the mistrust between the citizens and their governments, the individuals often rely on their families or NGS’s to provide safety to their sons and daughters. This finding can lead future public policies to approach violence against children from a multidisciplinary and inter-sectorial approach that could adapt better to Latin American societies.