Foreign Policy Blogs

Seeking an End to Global Child Abuse



Every day across the globe millions of children are abused and neglected.  These innocent children are the victims of forced labor, sex trafficking and exploitation, physical abuse, sexual abuse, mental abuse, malnutrition, neglect, and used as child soldiers.

The impacts of child abuse do not come to an end when the child is taken from their abuser or abusive situation.  The impacts of child abuse are life long and affect the child’s mental health and well being throughout adulthood.  According to the U.S. Surgeon General,

… severe and repeated trauma during youth may have enduring effects upon both neurobiological and psychological development altering stress responsivity and altering adult behavior patterns … these individuals experience a greatly increased risk of mood, anxiety and personality disorders throughout adult life.

These mental health issues not only affect that of the child, but the entire community.  The global impact of child abuse is huge, as it not only impacts the the health and social well-being of the child, but that of the entire family unit, community and nation.  Child abuse has a direct impact on the economic and social development of a country, as children are less likely to either finish their education or preform well in school. Without adequate support, once adults, they are more likely to struggle with employment and have lower participation in the workforce.  Therefore, lifetime effects of child abuse impact not only on the health of individuals, but strain health and welfare budgets across the country.  Additionally, abuse survivors are less likely to have healthy relationships throughout their lives and continue to suffer from the physiological trauma of their abuse, and if not treated, may continue the same patterns of behavior in their own relationships and parenting, thus creating a cycle of violence. Survivors of abuse may also have continued physical problems related to their abuse and have an increased likelihood for substance abuse — all which not only impact their personal development, but can place a strain on the healthcare system.

In the United States alone, according to the Administration for Children and Families, 12,180 children died from abuse and neglect between 2001 and 2008.  However, the actual number of child deaths is significantly higher, as many child maltreatment, abuse and neglect related fatalities remain unrecorded.

In the U.S. the fight against child abuse first gained ground in 1974 when the first federal child protection legislation, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), was passed. Over the years the act has been amended numerous times, most recently by the Keeping Children and Families Safe Act of 2003.  However, it was not until the early 1980s that Congress made a commitment to identify and implement solutions to fight child abuse. Seeing the astonishing rate at which children were abused and neglected, they sought to create preventative programs and assist parents and families affected by maltreatment. Congress then designated the week of June 6-12, 1982, as the first National Child Abuse Prevention Week. The following year, April was proclaimed the first National Child Abuse Prevention Month. The Office on Child Abuse and Neglect (OCAN) within the Children’s Bureau coordinates Child Abuse Prevention Month, providing information, such as the annual Resource Guide, and releasing updated national statistics about child abuse and neglect each April.

Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of the many who have worked countless hours addressing child maltreatment, the U.S. continues to fall short of protecting its youngest citizens. Knowing the warning signs of abuse are key for every adult to keeping our children safe from harm, as awareness is the first step in prevention.  Please see my previous article, Knowing the signs of abuse to protect our children, to learn more on how you can protect and prevent children from abuse.  And while we need to increase our awareness and prevention programs, we must also strengthen our laws to ensure that all children are given a fighting chance.



Cassandra Clifford

Cassandra Clifford is the Founder and Executive Director of Bridge to Freedom Foundation, which works to enhance and improve the services and opportunities available to survivors of modern slavery. She holds an M.A., International Relations from Dublin City University in Ireland, as well as a B.A., Marketing and A.S., Fashion Merchandise/Marketing from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Cassandra has previously worked in both the corporate and charity sector for various industries and causes, including; Child Trafficking, Learning Disabilities, Publishing, Marketing, Public Relations and Fashion. Currently Cassandra is conducting independent research on the use of rape as a weapon of war, as well as America’s Pimp Culture and its Impact on Modern Slavery. In addition to her many purists Cassandra is also working to develop a series of children’s books.

Cassandra currently resides in the Washington, D.C. metro area, where she also writes for the Examiner, as the DC Human Rights Examiner, and serves as an active leadership member of DC Stop Modern Slavery.

Areas of Focus:
Children's Rights; Human Rights; Conflict