More than 1 billion children—half of all the children in the world—are victims of violence every year, according to data just released by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) Division of Violence Prevention. That amounts to 2 of every 3 girls and 3 of every 4 boys globally who experience violence in childhood.
To understand the nature of this violence, the CDC’s Violence against Children Surveys (VACS) works to measure physical, emotional, and sexual violence against girls and boys through surveys that have been completed in five countries, and are underway in nine more. The surveys have highlighted the tragic correlation between exposure to childhood sexual violence and the increase in negative health conditions, including HIV and AIDS.
In each of the five countries studied – Haiti, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tanzania, and Swaziland – more than 1 in 4 girls experienced sexual violence. In one country surveyed, those that experienced sexual violence were 3.7 times more likely to be infected with sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
In addition to these negative outcomes, children who experience violence are at greater risk for destructive yet preventable consequences, including chronic diseases, crime and drug abuse, as well as serious mental health problems.
The CDC has composed a group of complementary strategies they believe are critical components for preventing violence against children. These strategies – termed THRIVES - highlight the need for mobilizing multiple sectors of the community. The THRIVES strategy includes:
Training in parenting
These focus areas illustrate that churches have a key role to play in this important issue given that in many communities they are the voice of influence in areas such as values toward children, parenting, and finances.