Hong Kong sees fewer reports of child abuse during pandemic

Local | 23 Apr 2021 1:03 pm

The prevalence of child abuse usually increases during times of crisis, yet the police force has noticed a slight decrease in reported cases last year during the pandemic.

The force said there were 769 child abuse cases last year, recording a 5.4 percent decline in its caseload from a year earlier.

Officers from the Family Conflict and Sexual Violence Policy Unit said the decline is unusual.

“Under the pandemic, there are fewer chances for children to leave their homes, that is a smaller chance for them to seek help from others. We suspect there are more cases yet to be reported to authorities” a police spokesman said.

In times where children no longer go to schools and took online lessons at home instead, they have less contact with trusted adults. Children also don’t have the resources to report child abuse.

Hong Kong’s child abuse cases were often detected by teachers noticing injuries on the children or observing a behavior change.

The perpetrators in over 70 percent of the child abuse cases were family members of the victim, the police spokesman pointed out.

"You see a higher incidence of child abuse or domestic violence. All of those things tend to increase during times like this. Parents are under great stress with the ongoing pandemic, which they may easily vent their anger on their children,” the spokesman added.

“It is most worrying that the actual number of child abuse cases may be higher.”

Earlier on Tuesday, a 29-year-old father and a 30-year-old stepmother were sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of their five-year-old daughter in 2018, which prompted lawmakers to call for the government to enforce a mandatory reporting mechanism of suspected cases of child abuse in schools.

However, the government dismissed the calls and said it was unfair to place the “sole responsibility” on teachers.

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