NEWS

Violence against children frequent and family based

New figures which suggest that at least 4,500 youngsters in Greece are seriously beaten by their father or mother each year and that three-quarters of the child murders that took place in 2003 were carried out by the victims’ parents or relatives indicate that the problem of child abuse is much more widespread than previously thought. At least 4,500 cases of violence against minors are recorded in Greece each year. In most cases, they will have been recorded because the youngster had been taken to a hospital emergency room or medical clinic. It is believed that many more such incidents each year go unreported. In many of the recorded cases, children had suffered fairly serious injuries, ranging from bruises to more permanent forms of bodily harm such as broken limbs or even, in one case, a gouged eye. Records from medical clinics show that of the cases where children were admitted with some form of injury after having been beaten by a parent, 85 percent are the result of an actual beating, while 10 percent are a consequence of sexual abuse. The rest are cases of self-harm. Children who hurt themselves often do so because of a mental scar which has been left by abuse that they have suffered in the past. Authorities point out, however, that there is almost no way of recording other forms of child abuse such as starvation or sleep deprivation. Statistics also indicate that boys are twice as likely to be victims of violent abuse than girls. It is estimated that only 10 percent of parents who beat their children have been diagnosed with a form of mental illness. The remaining incidents are simply put down to some kind of violent outburst. In some cases, this violence takes extreme forms. According to police records, 36 of the 46 child murders which happened last year were carried out by the youngster’s parent or a relative. Authorities are concerned that because people tend to ignore the phenomenon of parental child abuse, the depth of the problem is not really known. «About 150 children die each year in Greece. The medical causes are given as: sudden death, asphyxiation, accidental death or unknown cause. Have we ever asked ourselves how many of these deadly cases came about as a result of physical abuse?» Adonis Kasimatis, a director of the police psychology department, told Kathimerini. Police say that they are in a weak position when it comes to combating or preventing these and other forms of domestic violence, because it rarely happens out in the open. In fact, in some cases arguments between parents can often result in children putting themselves in a position where they can become a target for abuse. A survey carried out on behalf of the Research Center for Equality Issues (KETHI) shows that of 1,200 mothers questioned, over half said that their children had witnessed them being beaten by their father. A third of the youngsters in these cases tried to intervene and 17.5 percent began crying, as opposed to 22 percent who locked themselves in their room and 14 percent who took no action at all.