Children in abusive situations suffer mostly from violence from siblings and peers

Research on the prevalence of abusive experiences in childhood reveals negative impact of domestic violence on children

Research on the prevalence of abusive experiences in childhood show that kids suffer mostly from violence from siblings and peers (75.3%) in Malta, followed by those who experience ill-treatment (61.4%) or witness domestic violence (52%).

The data is part of research commissioned by the Commission on Gender-Based Violence and Domestic Violence, from the Department of Children and Family Studies within the Faculty for Social Welfare at the University of Malta.

The study, the first of its kind in Malta, was led by Dr Clarissa Sammut Scerri with the participation of Dr Ingrid Grech Lanfranco, Lara Pace and Maria Borg.

Dr Sammut Scerri told a national conference on Monday, attended by European Commissioner for equality Helena Dalli as well as other government ministers, that women aged 17 and over had experienced victimisation in their childhood more than men.

“More awareness is needed about the impact on children caught in an environment of domestic violence, as well as child victims of abuse by those most responsible for them... It is always necessary that the interests of the child be central to any decision taken in the fight against domestic violence,” Dalli told the conference in an opening speech.

The Commissioner for Gender-Based and Domestic Violence, Audrey Friggieri, stressed the importance of local research that reflects the realities of contemporary Maltese society to formulate increasingly effective policies on domestic violence and its effect on children, young people and families.

“This study clearly shows the negative impact that domestic violence has on children,” parliamentary secretary for equality Rebecca Buttigieg said. “We will continue to strengthen educational campaigns such as a ‘Safe Dates’ project, and also with other measures, so that our young people enter their first relationship knowing what is meant by a strong and non-abusive relationship.”

Social solidarity minister Michael Falzon added that the administration was “united in full synergy” with NGOs, to invest more in alternative care services for children in emotional and physical risk. “We need to give more professional support to children who are exposed to a violent environment and to ensure that they are raised in a safe and alternative environment as much as possible if abuse is ongoing.”

Home affairs minister Byron Camilleri, under recent criticism for inept structures to deal with domestic violence reports from women victims, referred to a Bill that will legislate the right for partners in a relationship to verify whether the other party has ever been sentenced in connection with a case of domestic violence. The initiative will be managed by the Agency for Victims of Crime.