A study on violence against children coordinated by Unicef and carried out by the government has found that more than three-quarters of children had experienced at least one incident of physical violence before age 12, while about 4 percent of females and 5 percent of males had been sexually abused.
The preliminary findings of the study, which have not yet been finalized, were presented in Phnom Penh on Thursday to government and NGO representatives who are part of the Violence Against Children Steering Committee, according to Chan Haranvattey, undersecretary of the Ministry of Social Affairs, which led the study along with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs.
The research polled 1,121 females and 1,255 males aged between 13 and 24 in order to determine what polices should be put into place to protect children and youths from sexual and physical abuse.
Ms. Haranvattey said the results showed a culture of violence in many forms. “When we got the results and saw there were problems, we know we need to organize policy and activities to decrease or get rid of the violence,” she said.
Of those aged between 18 and 24, 1 in 22 females and 1 in 18 males experienced sexual abuse before reaching the age of 18, the report found, and 62.2 percent of the females were 16 or 17 for the first incident, while 72.9 percent of the males were 13 or younger.
Fifty percent of the respondents between the ages of 18 to 24 said they had experienced at least one incident of physical violence before the age of 18. The majority of these incidents included being punched, kicked, beaten or whipped.
Eighty-four percent of females and 77 percent of males experienced at least one incident of physical violence before the age of 12.
Among those in the 18-to-24 age bracket who had been sexually abused, 45 percent of females and 64 percent of males never told anyone about the abuse.
Females often said they were afraid (26.1 percent) to tell of their abuse or didn’t see the abuse as a problem (22.1 percent). Among the males, 62.1 percent didn’t see it as a problem, either.
When it came to physical violence, nearly 57 percent of females and nearly 53 percent of males didn’t tell anyone, because they felt that it had been their own fault. Females between 18 and 24 who were sexually abused before the age of 18 were more likely to experience suicidal thoughts than those who had not.
They Kheam, director of the National Institute of Statistics’ census and survey department, said teams had spent about one month interviewing the respondents.
“The surprise in the report is that not only girls have [experienced violence] or abuse, but also boys,” he said.
The full results of the study will be released in April.