Violence against children is hidden in plain sight according to unprecedented UNICEF report

Shocking data from 190 countries including Canada reveal that 1 in 5 of all homicide victims are children

NEW YORK and TORONTO, Sept. 4, 2014 /CNW/ - UNICEF released its first report on violence against children today - the largest ever compilation of global statistics, patterns and attitudes on an issue that has been mostly undocumented and underreported. By examining data from 190 countries including Canada, Hidden in Plain Sight reveals the shocking prevalence and acceptance of physical, emotional and sexual violence perpetuated by and against children.

"While this report is the first of its kind to analyze the global statistics, we need to collectively look beyond the numbers to see the children," said David Morley, UNICEF Canada President and CEO. "Every child who has been abused, bullied or killed was born with the right to be protected from violence. It's in our hands to make the invisible visible and end violence."

Six facts about violence against children:

  1. Homicide is a leading cause of death among adolescent boys. Almost 1 in 5 of all homicide victims are under 19, with 95,000 children losing their lives in 2012. The vast majority of victims live in low- and middle-income countries.

  2. Violent discipline is the most common form of violence against children. Around 6 in 10 children aged 2 to 14 (almost a billion children) are regularly subjected to physical punishment. When children are exposed to violence by their caregivers they are significantly more likely to bully their peers or use violence against their own families.

  3. Bullying is a global phenomenon affecting millions of children. More than 1 in 3 students aged 13 to 15 are regularly subjected to harsh verbal abuse, psychological violence or physical violence. Children who have been bullied are likely to experience depression, anxiety, thoughts of suicide and low life satisfaction.

  4. Violence against girls can leave children feeling disenfranchised. Almost 1 in 4 of girls aged 15 to 19 worldwide (almost 70 million) report being victims of physical violence, but 7 in 10 never sought help to end it. Among adolescent girls who have been subjected to sexual violence, the most likely perpetrator was an intimate partner.

  5. Sexual violence often occurs with other forms of violence. Around 120 million girls under the age of 20 (about 1 in 10) have been subjected to forced sexual intercourse or other forced sexual acts at some point in their lives. Boys are also at risk, although a global estimate is unavailable due to the lack of comparable data in most countries. The most common form of sexual violence for both sexes was cyber-victimization.

  6. Harmful perceptions and social norms perpetuate violence. Close to half of all girls aged 15 to 19 worldwide (around 126 million) think a husband/partner is sometimes justified in hitting or beating his wife/partner. Education, awareness and attitudinal change are needed to end all forms of violence.

Violence remains universal for children around the globe, regardless of their economic and social status, culture, religion or ethnicity. Most violence against children occurs at the hands of the people charged with their care or with whom they interact daily (caregivers, peers and intimate partners) in settings where children should feel safe (communities, schools and homes).

Acts of violence can alter a child's brain development, damage their physical, mental and emotional health and compromise their lifetime potential. Violence can also pass down from one generation to the next, as the victim can become the perpetrator.

Children in Canada

Hidden in Plain Sight includes the most recent Canadian data available to understand both the national and international context.

  • The homicide rate is 2 cases per 100,000 children – half the global average.
  • As an area of concern, 32% of Canadian children were involved in bullying as victims or bullies.
  • Child welfare authorities substantiated reports of physical abuse in 3 cases per 1,000 children, with 75% of these cases resulting from attempts to punish a child. They also estimated that over 25% of substantiated emotional abuse cases arose in the context of punishment.
  • From ages 13 to 15 years, 31-50% of boys and 20-30% of girls reported being in a physical fight.

"Violence against children not only threatens childhoods, it erodes our society," said David Morley, UNICEF Canada President and CEO. "Preventing violence is a shared responsibility, and we call for a national child-centred strategy in Canada to addresses violence in all its forms, especially for our most vulnerable children." 

Six strategies to prevent violence

An accompanying report, Strategies for Preventing and Responding to Violence against Children, outlines these six strategies to enable society as a whole, from families to governments, to prevent and reduce violence against children:

  1. Support parents, families and caregivers
  2. Help children and adolescents manage risks and challenges
  3. Change attitudes and social norms that encourage violence and discrimination
  4. Promote and provide support services for children
  5. Implement laws and policies that protect children
  6. Carry out data collection and research.

For more information about Hidden in Plain Sight, please visit or join the conversation online with the #ENDviolence hashtag.


UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any other humanitarian organization. We work tirelessly to help children and their families, doing whatever it takes to ensure children survive. We provide children with healthcare and immunization, clean water, nutrition and food security, education, emergency relief and more.

UNICEF is supported entirely by voluntary donations and helps children regardless of race, religion or politics. As part of the UN, we are active in over 190 countries - more than any other organization. Our determination and our reach are unparalleled. Because nowhere is too far to go to help a child survive.


For further information: Andrea Ramhit, UNICEF Canada, Office: (416) 482-6552 ext 8890, Cell: (416) 434-2877,



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