UNICEF report shows disabled children at serious risk

December 12, 2005

Yale public health researcher Nora Groce chaired the Thematic Group on Violence against Disabled Children convened by UNICEF at the United Nations (UN), which has made recommendations for ending violence against disabled children in the forthcoming UN Secretary General's Report on Violence against Children.

The Report, recently issued by UNICEF, finds that while all children are at risk of being victims of violence, disabled children have significantly increased risk because of stigma, negative traditional beliefs and ignorance. Lack of social support, limited opportunities for education, employment or participation in the community further isolate disabled children and their families, leading to increased levels of stress and hardship. The Report also finds that disabled children are often targeted by abusers, who see them as easy victims.

"We found that factors placing disabled children at increased risk for violence and abuse are often related to social, cultural and economic issues, and not to the actual disability itself," said Groce, associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at Yale School of Medicine. "We concluded that interventions can and should be effective if implemented with concern and resolve."

The report provides an overview of violence against disabled children followed by recommendations for how such violence can best be addressed.

"Disabled children must be included in all programs intended to end violence towards and abuse of children, and these children cannot wait until issues of violence and abuse are first addressed for non-disabled children," said Groce. "The lives of disabled children are no less valuable than the lives of all other children and the short- and long-term consequences of violence and abuse for them are no less severe."

The UNICEF report on Violence Against Disabled Children set out to find the most common, the most severe and the most underreported forms of violence toward disabled children. The Group found that the most common was physical violence, including bullying and beating of disabled children in the home, school, workplace and institutions. Homicide, in the form of "infanticide" and "mercy killings" was found to be the most extreme act of violence, and the most underreported was sexual abuse. While children with all types of disability are at significantly increased risk, the study reports that children with intellectual impairments are at the greatest risk over the course of a lifetime.

"Violence against children as a global problem will not be solved unless the world's millions of disabled children are included in the overall solution," Groce added. "Nor will any of the Millennium Development goals be met unless this large and most marginalized group of children are fully included and addressed."

Yale University

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