WHAT are the forms of violence against children?

Violence against children is prevalent in every country, city and community. It takes all forms and affects children’s physical, social-psychological and mental well-being. The scale of this problem can be overwhelming and it is important to remind ourselves of the individual children behind the numbers.

  • Child marriage: About 1 in 7 adolescent girls (aged 15 to 19) worldwide is currently married or in union. Boys are far less likely than girls in the same region to marry before 18. More than 700 million women alive today got married before their 18th birthday. Read more

  • Child labour: Globally, there are approximately 168 million child labourers and over half of them (85 million children) are involved in hazardous work. Child labourers are often forced or trafficked into 3D jobs (dirty, dangerous and degrading) in sectors such as agriculture, fishing and mining. Read more

  • Child trafficking: Children make up more than a quarter (28%) of all detected trafficking victims. Read more (in Chinese only)

  • Children on the move: Nearly 50 million children across the globe have been forcibly displaced across or within borders. More than half of that number – 28 million – are boys and girls who flee violence and insecurity. Read more

  • Physical abuse: Around 6 in 10 children between the ages of 2 and 14 worldwide are subjected to physical punishment by their caregivers on a regular basis.

  • Sexual abuse: About 1 in 10 girls has been subjected to forced sexual acts before turning 20. Read more

  • Mental abuse: Globally, one third of the 84 million adolescent girls aged 15 to 19, in formal unions have been victims of some forms of emotional, physical or sexual violence perpetrated by their husbands or partners at some point.

  • Online vulnerability and abuse: In 2016, the Internet Watch Foundation identified over 57,000 URLS containing child sexual abuse images. The number of websites found to be hosting explicit and abusive images of children increased by 21 per cent in 2016.

  • Bullying: 1 in 3 students between the ages of 13 and 15 worldwide is regularly bullied at school.

HOW are children affected?

Violence against children affects their social, emotional, mental, and physical development and has far-reaching consequences into their future and their community. Violence in childhood can permanently shape the development of a child’s brain and immune system, leading to poor health over the course of his/her lifetime and a shorter lifespan. Children who are exposed to violence as a victim or a witness are more likely to become victims or perpetrators later in life. The cost of inaction is high.

The effects of violence on girls tend to be more profound and lasting. A survivor’s life may be changed by the damage done to her reproductive system as well as her psychological and physical well-being. Children forced to work or marry early are deprived of their rights to learn, develop and acquire personal values. During conflicts, children are forced to take up arms and fight in adult wars. This not only puts their health and lives at risk, but also sacrifices their childhood. The repercussions of violence reach families, communities and nations.

WHY – Causes of Violence against Children

Every child, in every setting, in every country is vulnerable to violence. The most susceptible and least protected people are often children fleeing conflict, children living in extreme poverty and girls.


Conflict weakens critical support systems and is detrimental to children’s well-being. Children affected by conflict, violence and natural disasters are especially vulnerable to risks, such as separation from families, military conscription, child labour, trafficking, physical or sexual abuse, child marriage, injury and death.


Impoverished families are often forced to make difficult decisions such as whether to send a child to work or marry off a child early to support the family.


Anyone, male or female, of any age, can be affected by sexual and gender-based violence during conflict. But violence against women and girls is all too common in the world. Violence can take many forms: domestic abuse, trafficking, rape or harmful practices such as early marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM). They can take place anywhere but are more regular in emergency or conflict situations.

World Vision Hong Kong, incorporated with limited liability, is a Christian humanitarian organisation working to create lasting change in the lives of children, families and communities living in poverty.
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