Nationwide study: more than 800 reports of child abuse

Each year, more than 800 police reports of child abuse are drawn up in the Netherlands. Fifty per cent of the reports concern physical child abuse, one third of the cases sexual abuse and the other reports concern cases of emotional neglect. The number of reports of partner violence, demonstrably witnessed by children, is estimated at 277 each year. This is evident from the “Criminal Prosecution of Child Abuse” study conducted by the Research and Documentation Centre (WODC) of the Ministry of Security and Justice and Bureau Van Montfoort. According to the researchers, these figures mark the lower limit of the actual number of reports.

It is the first study to provide clarity on the number of times and the way in which criminal action has been taken in cases of child abuse. Minister of Security and Justice Opstelten and State Secretary of Health, Welfare and Sport Veldhuijzen sent the study, covering the period 2007-2008, to the Lower House today.

Fathers form the largest group of suspects in cases of child abuse, followed by ‘partners of the parents’, mothers, other immediate relatives and others. The majority of the reports is made by the child itself (48%) or by one of the parents (40%).

In 7% of the cases, the abuse was reported by a professional agency, such as the Child Care and Protection Board, the Youth Care Agency or the Child Abuse Counselling and Reporting Centre (AMK).

One third of the reported cases lead to a sentence. Different forms of child abuse result in different sentences, however. Sexual abuse, for instance, is in general punished by a longer non-suspended prison sentence than physical child abuse and neglect. In cases of physical child abuse and neglect, a community service order is usually imposed.

The study also shows that in 42% of the cases of abuse the possibility is used to increase the sentence by one third, if the abuse was committed against the mother, father, spouse, life partner or child. However, the fact that the offence was aimed against the child of the suspect, is frequently taken into consideration as an aggravating circumstance, regardless of whether the possibility of increasing the sentence is used.

‘The outcomes of this study are very valuable, especially since this government attaches great importance to dealing with offenders more severely. I shall include my response to this study in the response to the report of the Safety Investigation Board, entitled “About the Physical Safety of the Young Child”, which the State Secretary of Health, Welfare and Sport and I will soon give’, said Minister Opstelten in the presentation letter to the Lower House.