‘More abuse cases reported after classes resumed’

A child protection organisation said on Thursday that it had seen a 40 percent increase in reports of suspected abuse, saying more cases were identified because face-to-face classes resumed in schools.

Against Child Abuse said it received 1,264 enquiries or reports via its hotline from April 2020 to March 2021, and 200 calls were reports of suspected child abuse – 56 more than the year before.

“In 2020, due to school closures and social distancing measures under the Covid-19 pandemic, suspected child abuse cases were difficult to be identified, so the reporting rate was lower,” said the group’s director Donna Wong.

“At the fourth quarter of 2020 school classes resumed, [so] the reporting rate may have increased.”

Around half of the cases this year were related to suspected physical abuse, while sexual assault, negligence and mental abuse concerns were also raised. Most suspected abusers were family members of the children.

Wong said children aged between six and eight years old face the highest risk of abuse.

“Children advancing from kindergarten to primary school… require more adjustment to the new learning environment and study mode,” she said.

“During this transitional stage, parents face pressure when choosing schools for their children and they are worried that the academic performance of their children will not meet the school requirement, which will lead to excessive expectations of their children and easily cause parent-child conflicts.”

She said parents need to take care of their own emotions and find ways to relieve their pressure.

Wong called on the authorities to review the maximum penalty for people convicted of child abuse, which is 10 years of imprisonment.

She also urged the government to accept a proposal by the Law Reform Commission to make bystanders criminally liable if they do nothing to protect a child from being abused.