May 23 2017, updated 7:25am

Adults must be responsible for child abuse

Last updated 00:00 01/01/2009

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The Children's Commissioner says her office sees girls as young as 11 who are pregnant as a result of sexual abuse, and every adult must take responsibility to stop the cycle of abuse in this country.

Cindy Kiro said her office was being thwarted by a "wall of silence" protecting people who abuse and kill children.

Today was World Child Abuse Prevention Day, and Dr Kiro said New Zealanders needed to speak up if they witnessed abuse against children and young people, and hold others accountable if they knew they were abusers.

"My office, through its work in the community, has come across girls as young as 11 who are pregnant and no one seems to know anything about how it happened; or children who have died as a result of abuse but authorities cannot hold anyone accountable because of the wall of silence.

"New Zealand is at a tipping point where communities are making it clear they will not tolerate child abuse and every adult needs to take responsibility for the physical, emotional and sexual abuse and abuse through neglect of our children," Dr Kiro said.

"We should focus on prevention and intervene when we see child abuse happening. Take action and tell someone. Call the police or Child, Youth and Family Services."

Dr Kiro said while children and young people should tell a trusted adult if they were victims of or witnessed abuse, it was ultimately adults who had to take responsibility.

"Don't ignore what might be happening in your homes and communities.

"While home should be a haven, for many children around the world it is a lethal place.

"Children suffer violence in their homes, from homicide to life threatening neglect or physical assault; humiliation to sexual violation. Commonly, this abuse is at the hands of family members who should be protecting the children.

"One of the most disturbing aspects of this survey is the finding that the perpetrators are mainly people in positions of trust with the children, including family members and so-called `uncles'."

Dr Kiro said New Zealanders had to change their attitudes and behaviour to become more child-focused.

"Children rely on adults to keep them safe and healthy."

In Auckland, the organisers of a hui on child abuse which will take place later this month say they are thrilled with progress on the meeting.

The summit will open with a memorial service at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on November 25.

Television presenters Carol Hirschfeld, Judy Bailey, John Campbell and Mike King will all take part in the service, which will remember New Zealand children who have died as a result of child abuse.

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Organiser Hone Kaa said the programme will focus on Maori children, who are at higher risk of dying as a result of child abuse than non-Maori.

NZPA

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