Child abuse affects all social classes and ethnicities, and it features a variety of characteristics, such as the age of the victim, violence type and severity, the context where it takes place and relationship between the victim and the perpetrator. This phenomenon is difficult to identify and monitor due to the cultural mechanisms of minimisation and denial, and as it mainly occurs within the family (WHO, 2002).
Child abuse is often repeated and victims get protection and rehabilitative, social and psychoemotional treatment at a later stage. Traumatic experiences are often denied, unexpressed or unprocessed. Clinical evidence and research have shown short, medium, long-term consequences of violence on health highlighting how physical and psychological damage require early, integrated and specialist treatment (see “ACE – Adverse Childhood Experience Study” – one of the first epidemiological studies leading to interesting research data on the connections between traumatic experiences in childhood and physical and mental health in adulthood).
There is a need within the services focusing on the protection of children and adolescents for an improved integration of healthcare services (both institutional and outside), social services, schools and early-childhood education and care, Judicial Authorities and police forces. Currently, a number of obstacles are hindering an integrated treatment mechanism from the assessment and reporting of violence throughout the adoption of protection/treatment measures and judicial trials involving child victims.
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