Jarrod Gilbert: Child abuse anger robbing focus from prevention

NZ Herald 25 August 2015
The small, battered body of Leon Jayet-Cole was brought to Christchurch Hospital. He never left. His injuries suggest he met a violent end. He was 5 years old.
Moko Sayviah Rangitoheriri was 3 years old when he died. Ihaka Stokes was just 15 months. Three children killed in the past four weeks. By the Herald‘s count we are approaching 10 such deaths this year. We are maintaining a shameful trend.
New Zealand has the fifth highest rate of child abuse in the OECD. Most of this occurs in the home. Our children are being killed in the place they should feel loved and safe.
In large part, homicide statistics tell an obvious story. Victim numbers rise strongly in the adventurous late teens and early 20s and tend to tail off with age. But incredibly there is no time a New Zealander is more at risk than when they are a kid.
Children are more likely to be murdered within three years of being born than at any other time during their life. Even more surprising, given the acute gender focus of domestic violence campaigns, women are equally as likely to kill as men and most often the culprit is the child’s biological mother.
A Family Violence Death Review Committee reported that of the 37 child homicides resulting from abuse and neglect between 2009 and 2012, at least 41 per cent were killed by their mother. In very young children this figure increases. The other perpetrators – stepfathers, fathers, and female caregivers – lagged well behind.
Dr Jarrod Gilbert is a sociologist at the University of Canterbury and the lead researcher at Independent Research Solutions.

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