Reported child violence is the ‘tip of the iceberg’, global study reveals

  • 62% of Australians surveyed know of a victim of child violence
  • The overwhelming majority of Australians interviewed (80%) believe that most child violence goes unreported
  • New global study shows that misunderstandings hamper progress, says aid agency

Australians believe child violence is a common, growing and under-reported problem, says a new study released by child-focused organisation World Vision today.

Fearing Wrong: Why What Doesn’t Scare Us Should, conducted by research company Ipsos Reid and international aid agency World Vision, also reveals that Australians as well as people around the globe have misconceptions about where child violence occurs, how and when – and that these misunderstandings may be putting children at risk.  

“Child violence is the growing, silent horror of our time,” says Melissa Stewart, World Vision Australia’s Senior Advisor on Child Protection. “Yet our knowledge of what is really happening is just the tip of the iceberg.”

“We can see from this report that the public’s misunderstanding of violence may actually be putting children at risk.” 

The survey found that the majority (62 per cent) of people globally believe that children are most likely to be at risk “out there” – on public transport and in other public places – when in fact the most common perpetrators of all forms of abuse are immediate family members.

“We know that violence can contribute to a lifetime of mental, psychological, social and other challenges for a child. Understanding these harmful myths can help World Vision and other organisations address them and work towards the solutions needed to protect children in Australia and overseas.”

In addition, 80 per cent of Australians surveyed think that child violence is going unreported here in Australia – believing that violence is most commonly a result of alcoholism and drug use, past victims becoming abusers, and a lack of knowledge about the problem.

The global study spoke to more than 11,000 people in 28 countries, including approximately 500 people in Australia, in an effort to understand why violence against children continues, who is perpetrating it, and where time, effort and funding needs to go to see an end to it.

The report outlines a number of recommendations for combating violence against children globally, including a focus on educating and empowering children and their families to prevent violence, setting up safe places for children to turn. The report also calls for more resources to be dedicated to violence prevention.

“Through our work at World Vision we have learned there are many ways that we unknowingly support child violence. Fortunately there are things that Australians can do if they want to be a part of the solution – such as voting with your dollar by buying ethical products that have not been produced using forced, child and trafficked labour, and encouraging local businesses to stock more ethical products,” said Ms Stewart.

Media contact: Kayla Robertson – 0418 762 926 or

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