More attention to child abuseWe need to raise society-wide awareness to prevent child neglect and abuse. Recent criminal cases underscore the prevalence and brutality of maltreatment as well as abuse of children in the hands of their parents and caregivers.
An elementary school boy recently was discovered dead in his sleep from a beating after he was disciplined by his father and stepmother.
The head of a day care center was arrested for hitting infants on the head and confining them for crying.
A woman was also charged with starving her stepchild to death by only providing salt and rice for a month. Three malnourished children were discovered neglected in their basement home. A month-old baby was also found uncared for and unfed in Geoje, South Gyeongsang.
More than 80 percent of child abuse cases are inflicted in their homes. Early recognition, prevention and punishment are difficult because parents can insist on their style of disciplining their own children.
Because of legal limits in restricting parental rights, seven out of 10 abused children are sent back to their abusive homes. More than 10 percent are victimized again.
Society has been paying more attention to child abuse. The Seoul Metropolitan government set up a prevention center last month and the government also proposed last year a special law on prevention of abuse and exploitation of children by toughening punitive actions to the offenders and guardians as well as enhancing their obligation to report abuse.
But vulnerable children become among the first to be victimized when worsening economy and joblessness affects family lives.
Experts advise creating a network for monitoring broken families and increased counseling services for parents as well as campaigns to encourage neighbors to maintain their vigilance and report abusive behavior toward children in their community.
Offenders must be punished more sternly and should lose their parental rights. There must be more facilities to provide care and shelter for underage victims.
Authorities must accelerate administrative actions and legal steps to prevent children from further abuse. But potential and imminent harm occurring at a child’s home cannot be stopped simply with public measures.
Citizens and the community should all pay special attention to neglected children and report abuse in their neighborhoods.