All children have the right to be protected from violence, exploitation and abuse. Yet, millions of children worldwide from all socio-economic backgrounds, across all ages, religions and cultures suffer violence, exploitation and abuse every day. Millions more are at risk.
Some girls and boys are particularly vulnerable because of gender, race, ethnic origin or socio-economic status. Higher levels of vulnerability are often associated with children with disabilities, who are orphaned, indigenous, from ethnic minorities and other marginalised groups. Other risks for children are associated with living and working on the streets, living in institutions and detention, and living in communities where inequality, unemployment and poverty are highly concentrated. Natural disasters, armed conflict, and displacement may expose children to additional risks. Child refugees, internally displaced children and unaccompanied migrant children are also populations of concern. Vulnerability is also associated with age; younger children are at greater risk of certain types of violence and the risks differ as they get older.
Violence, exploitation and abuse are often practiced by someone known to the child, including parents, other family members, caretakers, teachers, employers, law enforcement authorities, state and non-state actors and other children. Only a small proportion of acts of violence, exploitation and abuse are reported and investigated, and few perpetrators are held accountable.
Violence, exploitation and abuse occur in the homes, families, schools, care and justice systems, workplaces and communities across all contexts, including as a result of conflict and natural disasters. Many children are exposed to various forms of violence, exploitation and abuse, including sexual abuse and exploitation, armed violence, trafficking, child labour, gender-based violence, bullying (see UNICEF, Too often in silence, 2010), cyber-bullying, gang violence, female genital mutilation/cutting, child marriage, physically and emotionally violent child discipline, and other harmful practices.
There is significant evidence that violence, exploitation and abuse can affect the child’s physical and mental health in the short and longer term, impairing their ability to learn and socialize, and impacting their transition to adulthood with adverse consequences later in life.