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NZ: Police respond to jump in child abuse (Canterbury)

Publish Date: 16 Apr 2011
Source: The Press
By: Rebecca Todd

A big rise in child-abuse cases since the earthquakes has forced Christchurch police to boost their child-protection team.

Experts say reports of mostly physical violence against children have jumped by about 20 per cent after the September and February quakes.

Children are not only being assaulted but are witnessing a big increase in domestic violence, they say.

Child-protection team head Detective Senior Sergeant Corrie Parnell said two extra officers had been brought in to help the 18-strong team.

At first there was a lull in the number of reports of domestic violence, but they started flooding in 10 days after the February quake.

"We have seen more of a volume of physical assaults as opposed to the sexual ones we tend to deal with," Parnell said.

Some children had to be admitted to hospital because of serious injuries.

The displacement of families meant some abusers were now being exposed, while others were getting the opportunity to exploit vulnerable children.

"Everyone across all sectors of society is clearly under a lot of pressure and, at the end of the day, a child is vulnerable and they need to be cherished," Parnell said

"When things are getting to that escalation point, you have to seek out some help."

The trend was the same after the September quake, when numbers spiked over Christmas, which was traditionally a quiet period, he said.

The long-term impact of the quakes meant child-abuse issues would remain a priority for some time.

"We are acutely mindful we have to really keep a close watch on it," he said. "Over the next six months, they'll have to put more resourcing this way."

Canterbury District Health Board child-safety team co-ordinator Susan Miles said that in the three months after the September quake there was a 20 per cent increase in children referred to the service by concerned health staff. Numbers were up again since February.

About 850 children were last year referred to the service, and 365 were referred to Child, Youth and Family.

Problems with housing and unemployment led to stress in the community, which led to a rise in child abuse, Miles said.

Battered Women's Trust manager Lois Herbert said police referrals for family violence leapt by 30 per cent after September, and had risen again since the February quake.

About one-third of victims linked the violence to earthquake stress.

Female victims were sometimes so worn down by the abuse they could not care for their children, she said.

Christchurch child advocate Carol Carlisle said a recent Government decision to axe funding for the child-advocates service had come at a bad time for Christchurch.

"A lot of people have lost homes; they have got no money," she said. "When you work with a family, the basic needs have to be met first, and if they are not, those families who are already suffering will suffer more."

Copyright © 2011 Fairfax New Zealand Limited

Stop Demand makes the following comments - to raise awareness, educate and encourage critical analysis.

"... as opposed to the sexual ones we tend to deal with," [Detective Senior Sergeant] Parnell said.  That Police are routinely dealing with the rape and sexual violation of children in their homes, is to our nation's shame. 

Since 1992, on average 78% of all New Zealand's annual sex crime convictions have involved child victims.  Over 99% of convicted child sex offenders are male.  

One has to ask: what lies behind such sub-human behaviour in not a few but in literally thousands of New Zealand men?