Violence is most common among children at school followed by that in the community

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Children and young people who have experienced violence or neglect, and those who feel in danger, have a much lower level of well-being than other children, reveals a nation-wide representative survey by UNICEF in Bulgaria.

Key findings of the survey on violence against children:

• One in two children (47%) has experienced some form of violence by the age of 18.

• Emotional violence is the most common kind (45.9%), followed by physical violence (31.2%), sexual abuse (15.6%) and neglect (10.5%).

• Violence is most common among children at school (38.3%), followed by that in the community (37.6%) and at home (30.9%).

• One in three children (34.8%) states that they feel in danger at home, at school or in the community.

How the educational system coops with the issue? Despite the key role that educators play in identifying and responding to cases of VAC (Violence against Children), education professionals were less likely than other professionals (with the exception of health professionals) to say that they would definitely report situations involving children at risk of violence, abuse or neglect. Only 17 per cent of education professionals had identified a child at risk of violence, abuse or neglect during the past six months. Education professionals were least able to identify markers of VAC and generally viewed VAC, particularly sexual abuse of children, as a less serious issue than other professionals. While the majority of educational professionals viewed physical punishment as unacceptable, around one in six thought smacking or children is an acceptable form of discipline, indicating a need for greater awareness of the negative consequences of physical punishment and greater support for teachers to model positive discipline measures and to communicate these to parents. The low reporting of VAC by schools was expressed as a concern by other child protection professionals. Low reporting may be linked to lower awareness and confidence in identifying and responding to VAC. It may also arise from the challenges of working with parents, with teachers perceiving that parents do not trust schools and will not cooperate in cases of violence or bullying.

In the Community

Rates of physical violence against children in community settings were lower than violence experienced at school or at home, but were still found to be relatively common. Overall, over 1 in 10 (12.6 per cent) children, including over 1 in 6 boys (17.7 per cent), and around 1 in 12 girls (8.1 per cent) reported being subject to physical violence in these settings. 4.2 per cent of children reported being subject to serious violence causing injury. As with physical violence, children were asked about their experiences of emotional violence “on the street, at any other places [they] go to, or at any groups [they] attend”. Experiences of emotional violence in community settings were found to be much higher than experiences of physical violence: almost 1 in 3 (31.1 per cent) of boys, and 1 in 5 (25.5 per cent) of girls reported being subjected to emotional violence in these settings. More vulnerable children, and those from disadvantaged backgrounds, such as Roma and Turkish children, those with disabilities, and children from poorer households, were relatively less knowledgeable about help seeking in cases of violence, than more privileged children. There were no differences between boys’ and girls’ knowledge of where to seek help.

The survey is the first comprehensive survey of its kind in Bulgaria, as it includes data collection on all forms of violence against children in different types of environments, as well as a thorough assessment of the capacity of the relevant services to prevent and counteract this phenomenon. It was conducted in the period 2019–2020 and included a nation-wide representative sample of households, covering 1,174 children aged 13–17, 837 young people aged 18–25 and 1,411 adults, as well as a survey among 887 professionals – teachers, social workers, prosecutors and magistrates, health professionals and police officers.

You could find the two parts of the full report with the results of the survey here: Part one and Part two

Download the Report Summary here

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How these findings corelate with the situation in your country? Are there differences and what are the reasons for them?