Additionally, organisations like the Victim Support agency require parental permission, which usually follows the assumption that parents are unlikely to be the perpetrators of offences against children. Only a few Help organisations, like Childline, allow anonymous telephone counselling, but most children are unaware of there existence or, just as importantly, how to contact them (Williams 1999: p. 45) Therefore, in addition to the general consensus of children commonly being seen as offenders rather than victims, and it being difficult for children to report abuse, there is also the belief that parents know what’s best.
Subsequently it is complicated in judging where one begins infringing on parental rights, and it is broadly considered in the best interests of the family, and subsequently the child (rightly or wrongly) that parents are left to raise their children as they see fit. These problems illustrate the difficulty in combating domestic child abuse when it arises, especially in relation to policy formulation, where it has to be considered how to not only identify cases of abuse, but also how they can be dealt with in a way which is universally accepted.
As the Cleveland cases illustrated, juggling the rights of parents with the safety of child can be a difficult task. In more severe cases child abuse can lead to death. Unlike the types of abuse mentioned above, when this occurs figures are much more easy to observe, and also very disturbing at the same time. Reports show that in Britain at least one to two children are killed by parents or relatives each week, with approximately 120 child death notifications received per year by the department of Health (Central Statistical Office 1994, as cited in Pritchard and Kemshall 1999: p. 169).
Statistics also show that children are more likely to be killed in their own home and by members of their own family (including step parents) than anywhere else or by anyone else, and that young infants and toddlers represent the age group most ‘at risk’ of homicide ( Creighton 1995, as cited in Pritchard and Kemshall 1999: p. 170). However, the difficultly arises in the distinction between homicide and extreme child abuse. In many cases it is unclear whether extreme physical abuse was the cause of homicide, which could consequently be considered accidental homicide (nevertheless debatably).
The problem that arises from this possibility is, that if homicide is generally the outcome of extreme physical abuse (and therefore not intentional), this points to the reality that the cases of physical child abuse in the UK could be on much larger scale than the figures above illustrate (32 in 10,000). The difficultly in distinguishing the difference between accidental and non-accidental is also vital in coming to the correct conclusions regarding false accusations. Unfortunately there have numerous cases of mothers or nurses being falsely accused of the murders of infants.
Amanda Cannings was falsely convicted of killing her children because of flawed evidence given by experts. Also recently in 2002, nurses Dawn Reed and Chris Lillie were finally, and completely, cleared of sexual allegations relating to no less than 27 children, and of supplying ‘paedophile sex session filming’, after a nine year ordeal of going in and out of hiding (Richardwebster. net, Shieldfield: how did it happen, 2002) Events like the Shieldfield libel case, the Amanda Canning affair and the Cleveland Child Abuse cases of 1987 illustrate the need for a clear policy outlining how child abuse and homicide should be treated.
It also shows the difficulties in coming up with a universal policy on how to identify domestic violence against children and how more research needs to go into identifying abuse early on and where and when hard lines should be taken. Child victimization is also evident in internet pornography taken for the usage by paedophiles world wide. This has been of huge contention internationally because no single country can effectively combat the problem or make individual policy without addressing the wider issue.
Additionally, the increase in the amount of child pornography on the internet has been so rapid that most government agencies are unsure where to start. The NSPCC estimates that over 140,000 new images are put on the internet in any 6 week period, as well as the fact that individual children are being used to create huge amounts of material; again some 20 individuals were estimated to have been used in the creation of 35,000 images (NSPCC, The devastating impact of child pornography, 2003). But what truly illustrates this as an international issue, is the disturbing effects it is having on poorer countries, like those in Asia.
With the increase in tourism, child pornography on the internet has led to astonishingly high estimated figures being released at a seminar on child abuse in Sri Lanka; with child prostitution and extortion levels as high as 500,000 in Thailand, 400,000 in India, 30,000 boy prostitutes Sri Lanka, a 100,000 in the Philippines and another 100,000 in Taiwan (UNESCO, Journalists perspective on Asian problem, 1999). In the EU and US legislation has been put forward to clamp down on people subscribing to paedophilia sites.
In October 1998 President Clinton signed into law the Child Online Protection Act which criminalizes the commercial distribution of material on web sites which is considered harmful to minors. Additionally, in May 1998 the European Union Council of Ministers adopted a four-year action plan for promoting safe use of the Internet. This will provide funds for a European network of hot-lines and numerous projects on filtering, rating and demonstration products designed to reduce the dangers of the Internet, in particular for the protection of minors (UNESCO, Freedom of information…
and pornography on the internet, 1998). Whereas this may combat the issue of stopping the buyers, stopping the treatment of minors in foreign countries will require a huge international effort, but evidence of British policy success in stopping child abuse for pornography is already becoming evident (Guardian. co. uk, Web Paedophilia ‘Clampdown’ saves 100 children, 2004). In conclusion, this essay hopes to have illustrated that while youths are the main perpetrators of some specific incidences of offences, the social stigma as them being trouble makers is not entire fair.
That juvenile offences go far deeper than mere trouble making, with some problems arises from more fundamental issues such as social deprivation and domestic abuse. It also aims to have shown a significant area of child victimization, and how this could be combated. While issues like indirect victims have not been documented; children witnessing wife beating, or even police officers compiling child pornography were not mentioned, as well as the idea of child as both perpetrators AND victims, with instances where parents have beaten their children for getting in trouble with police (Drakeford ; Haines, 1998: p.20), it is clear that child abuse is a wide stretching problem which carries over into every facet of social life.
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