Economic Cost of Child Abuse
Prevention must be Proactive
Child abuse prevention is a societal and governmental issue. Yes, prevention means intervention when suspected or known child abuse is taking place. When someone intervenes, the chances of preventing further abuse are greatly increased. But being reactive can’t be considered the answer. Child abuse prevention means taking steps to ensure abuse never happens in the first place. Prevention means setting up laws, policies and declarations that deal with the rights of children and youth.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is one such declaration. Canada ratified this convention on December 13, 1991. This child abuse prevention document outlines many ways that societies are responsible for their children. The document identifies that children shall be given opportunities and facilities, by law and other means, to enable him or her to develop physically, mentally, morally, spiritually, and socially in a healthy and normal manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity.
Fact: The estimated cost of child sexual abuse in Canada exceeds $3.6 billion. The true cost is higher because of secrecy and the dependency that children often have on their abusers. Other costs are estimated at: Justice System: $8 billion/year; economic costs of violence against women: $4.2 billion/year; and each youth suicide: $640,000 to $3,000,000 (Hankivsky, 2003, forthcoming (1)).
The above statistics do not take into account all other forms of abuse.
(1) Hankivsky, O. (2003, forthcoming). Preliminary cost estimates of child sexual abuse in Canada. Ottawa: Health Canada.