Parents, step-parents, relatives account for 60% of child abuse cases

PETALING JAYA: Shocking statistics from the Welfare Department show that more than half of reported child abuse cases were committed by parents of the victims.

Statistics for 2015 show parents were the perpetrators in more than 51% of cases, and the percentage rose to 60% when step-parents (4.6%) and relatives (4.5%) were factored into the equation.

"It's not surprising because most of the time the children live with their parents," a Welfare Department spokesman told theSun.

Statistics show that physical, emotional and sexual abuse are mostly perpetrated by parents, step-parents, boyfriends of the child or relatives.

From a total of 4,453 cases reported in 2015, mothers were the abusers in 1,422 cases and fathers were responsible in 878.

Alarmingly, 20% of these cases (912) involved sexual abuse of the victims and the figure has been consistently rising between 2011 and 2015.

In 2011, parents were identified as the culprits in 1,520 cases (44%) of a total of 3,428 (see chart).

"As such, there is a need for the neighbours or the community to step up and report suspected abuse to the authorities.

"Only if suspected cases are reported can we conduct investigations and early intervention.

This can save a child from serious injuries or even death," he said, adding that through intervention , the department can provide rehabilitation and counselling for both the abusive parents and the children.

Reasons for abuse of children include:
» family disputes;
» a mother following a boyfriend in hurting or neglecting the child;
» carelessness of parents or guardians;
» financial problems;
» drug and alcohol addiction.

"Family disputes usually occur when parents are stressed especially in urban environment where they have to earn a living or are living in poverty'" he said.

Also, such stress is common among urban nuclear families which do not have the benefit of grandparents or other family members helping to take care of the children while the parents are at work.

"With the harsh environment setting, a family is easily exposed to disputes especially between parents where the children will become victims," he added.

Proposed amendments to the Child Act (Amendment) 2016 are also meant to address the problem of child abuse in a family where it is an offence for family members to condone such abuse.

Under the proposed amendments, stiffer penalties for offenders are on the cards as a deterrent.