17 July 2012 at 16:32
Children with disabilities are almost four times more likely to be victims of violence than other children, according to a new report commissioned by the World Health Organization.
The report, published in The Lancet on Thursday, found that disabled children were 3.6 times more likely to be physically assaulted and 2.9 times more likely to be sexually assaulted.
The most common victims of sexual assault were those with mental illness or retardation, and institutionalized children were attacked more often than those living at home.
Last week’s report was a meta-analysis of 17 other studies that collectively gathered evidence on 18,374 children, all of them living in wealthy countries, from the United States to Europe to Israel. About 3 percent of children in rich countries and up to 6 percent in poor ones have disabilities.
“Physical violence” included threats and spanking that left marks on the skin. A study published about 10 years ago estimated that 53,000 children under age 18 are murdered each year.
Dr. Etienne Krug, the director of the W.H.O. department of violence and injury prevention, said that strategies that have proven to protect other children should be studied for the disabled. Among these are training for violence-prone parents and home visits by nurses to children at risk.
An accompanying editorial also touched on mentally ill adults, saying public fear of them should be redirected to “increased awareness of, and compassion towards, these individuals as victims of violence.”