New National Study Reveals Vast Extent of Child Abuse

More than half of all Cambodians under the age of 18 have been the victim of physical violence at least once, while more than 6 percent of females and 5 percent of males reported being sexually abused as children, according to a new study released Wednesday.

The study—conducted jointly by Unicef, the National Institute of Statistics and the ministries of planning, women’s affairs and social affairs—surveyed 2,376 children and young adults between the ages of 13 and 24 across Cambodia in February and March last year. The respondents answered questions about their children.

The study also found that one quarter of Cambodian children have suffered emotional abuse, defined as “verbal behavior over time or an isolated incident that is not developmentally appropriate.”

For all three types of abuse, parents and teachers are most often the perpetrators, followed by members of the community known to the victims, the study says.

“The majority [of victims] reported that the perpetrator of the first incident of childhood physical violence was a parent, and especially mothers,” it says.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the study’s launch at the Sofitel Hotel in Phnom Penh, Ing Kantha Pavi, the minister of women’s affairs, said that while its results show that the abuse of Cambodian children is widespread, the government is committed to addressing the problem.

“What we organized today shows a real willingness and commitment by the government to prevent and reduce violence against children,” she said, adding that the Ministry of Women’s Affairs is developing a program to promote nonviolent parenting techniques.

Marta Santos Pais, a special representative of the U.N. secretary-general on violence against children, said the study released Wednesday was the first comprehensive collection of data on childhood abuse in Cambodia.

“[U]ntil now we could only make assumptions,” Ms. Pais said. “Now we have concrete evidence.”

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