Domestic violence against children

Domestic violence is generally understood to affect mostly women. Less well documented is the neglect, and emotional or physical violence that many children face in Turkey. A study published last year by Boiazici University, the Humanist Banduro and Frekans research sought to fill this gap. Based on face-to-face interviews with over 4,100 people across the country, it focused on domestic violence against children aged 0-8 and offered important clues about the family dynamics and the environment that affect very young children and their development. Seventy-four percent of parents, for instance, stated that they resorted to a degree of emotional violence (yelling, denying the child something she likes, locking the child in a room, etc.) when irritated by their offspringand’s behavior. Twenty-three percent of respondents admitted resorting to physical punishment such as slapping, pulling hair or ear, pushing or shaking their children, mainly when they lost their temper. and”The part that was most disturbing is that people donand’t see emotional abuse as abuse. They think it works and doesnand’t leave a mark. They donand’t see it as having long-term impact or causing damage,and” says Dr. Serra Manduderrisoilu, an expert in clinical psychology from Boiazici University and the key researcher on this survey. Parents who had themselves faced violence during their childhood acknowledged being hurt, but they often failed to connect it with their childrenand’s experience perhaps because of a widespread but erroneous perception that children wonand’t remember anything that happened in their early childhood. Seeking to identify determining factors of neglect and emotionalhysical violence, the researchers found greater incidence of such problems in larger families and families where one member is disabled. Higher income and better education were shown to decrease the incidence of neglect or violence, while unemployment, psychological issues or traumatic events such as migration, displacement, illness or grief had the opposite effect. Sixty percent of those surveyed acknowledged that domestic violence against children is and”quite prevalentand” or and”extremely prevalentand” in Turkey. Even at this young age, 66 percent of children were found to spend more than two hours a day in front of the television and 32 percent were left to play outside in playgrounds or in the streets without adult supervision. The researchers found that 8 percent of young children were left in the care of other children under 12 while 6 percent were left alone for at least an hour. Neglect and lack of interaction can at times be as damaging as inconsistent parenting that involves emotionalhysical abuse as well as love, Manduderrisoilu told me. Living in a violent environment is also harmful and the survey showed that 70 percent of children witnessed domestic abuse when it occurred in the household. No society is free of child abuse or neglect. Once this fact is acknowledged, structures can be set up to identify symptoms, refer suspected cases to experts and ensure children are adequately protected. Too few resources are available in Turkey to support families in times of crisis. The tendency to keep problems in the family, rather than seek outside help, also makes it harder to help those in need. Children are also often viewed as their parentsand’ property, rather than individuals with rights of their own. and”In Turkish culture, there is no concept of the child being an independent agent from the start. There is also the sense that a child can be completely molded from the outside,and” she says. In Turkey, the Bernard van Leer foundation, which sponsored the survey, supports community-based childcare programs in several municipalities across the country, including in Beyoilu. and”The idea is not to stigmatize families, but to help them,and” says Yiiit Aksakoilu, the Turkey representative for the foundation. Focusing on the needs of early childhood by raising parentsand’ awareness of childrenand’s need, providing them with practical tips and better access to psychologists and childcare does not just address the immediate needs of children at risk of violence. A childand’s development in early childhood is also widely seen as crucial to educational success, while boosting childcare services would enable more mothers to join the workforce. In short, this is an investment that would benefit the entire society.