Violence Against Children

MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN | 3/5/2018, 1:39 p.m.
“We see things that adults sometimes can’t see.”– Child participant, United Nations Study on Violence against Children

Children's Defense Fund

“We see things that adults sometimes can’t see.”– Child participant, United Nations Study on Violence against Children

Violence against children… For many people the words alone are unthinkable – the absolute worst of what humans are capable of doing. The school shooting in Parkland, Florida, is a stark reminder of the violence that stalks our children in their schools, homes, places of worship, streets and communities every day. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students’ brave and inspiring response has reminded us all that adults must take action now to protect our children. The politicians and powerful gun industry lobbyists who are stonewalling reforms and now criticizing and seeking to silence young voices are absolutely shameful. Today our children are leading and we should follow them, as it is their lives that are at risk. Tomorrow they will be voters and the elected officials we need to move us forward and we must act now.

Pervasive gun violence against children is a uniquely shameful all-American epidemic. Consider that since 1963, over three times more children and teens died from guns on American soil than U.S. soldiers were killed by hostilities in wars abroad. On average 3,426 children and teens – 171 classrooms of 20 children – were killed by guns every year from 1963 to 2016. And gun violence comes on top of other major threats of global violence that threaten our children.

The new book Violence Against Children: Making Human Rights Real, edited by longtime scholar and advocate Gertrud Lenzer with contributions from authors in many fields, looks at global violence against children in many forms and what we can do to stop it. The book’s foreword is by Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, the independent expert for the United Nations secretary-general’s landmark Study on Violence against Children. It begins, “The U.N. Study on Violence against Children revealed how millions of children almost everywhere have been left behind in their recognition as rights holders and in their protection from violence. It revealed how the history of violence against children is a history of silence. Since the UN Study was endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly in 2006, important developments have been achieved … [yet] today more than 1 billion children around the world continue to suffer multiple forms of violence in the home and family, in schools, in care and justice institutions, in workplaces, in the community and in cyberspace. The international community cannot remain silent and passive; it is time to stop the history of silence and impunity that surrounds violence against children.”

Dr. Lenzer’s Violence Against Children is another call to action shattering that silence. A comprehensive global overview on all forms of violence against children and its prevention, this book is on not just physical violence but structural violence. Both hit close to home for millions of American children. Along with physical abuse, sexual abuse and gun violence, the assaults of child poverty, homelessness, the structural deficiencies of foster care and our juvenile justice systems, the Cradle to Prison Pipeline crisis, and youth prisons are all pervasive forms of violence against children. Never has there been such a great need in our own nation to protect children from the growing hate and harms facing them.