Speaking up about child abuse is working

The headline may look worrying – Reported child abuse cases in Waikato rises.

But it could be a positive trend that will lead to lower levels of child abuse – more speaking out about abuse may break a culture of silence that has hidden awful levels and degrees of abuse against children.

The number of suspected child abuse cases reported to Child, Youth and Family in the Waikato rose nine per cent between 2011 and 2012.

New statistics show there was 17,196 family violence referrals to the agency in the Waikato last year, a rise of 1471 from 2011.

However, of those cases, 5414 required further action – a 22 per cent jump.

Unique notifications in the Waikato also rose by 437 – outpacing any other area in the country between 2011 and 2012.

The raw statistics don’t look good.

– but officials have attributed the rise to more people speaking out, rather than a rise in abuse.

And more speaking out, and subsequent of addressing the problems and dealing with them, should lead to reducing the levels of abuse.

CYF Waikato operations manager Sue Critchley attributed part of the rise to members of the community becoming increasingly aware that it was “OK to speak out”.

“I think there is far more awareness … people are more confident to ring us.”

Increased community involvement by CYFs through local service providers was also considered a driver for the rise in notifications.

Referrals from police make up the bulk of reporting, but schools and community service agencies also played a part, she said.

“I think there is a genuine awareness across the Waikato about seeking advice. It’s not necessarily about reporting a child abuse concern, but a worry people have about their children or their neighbours’ children.”

And support and prevention seems to be working…

The figures were tempered slightly by the fact that confirmed abuse cases in the region dropped, bucking the overall national trend of a 7 per cent rise.

“While there may be an increase in reports of concern and further action required, you’ll see our substantiation is not as high because we’re getting the right services in place for families before it goes wrong,” she said.

Speaking up about abuse and violence is essential in addressing large and entrenched problems in New Zealand society.


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