Child abuse remains prevalent. The question is: how prevalent? Secrecy, silence and social stigma mean that abuse often goes unreported. We know how many cases of abuse are reported and how many cases are substantiated each year. However, it is impossible to access true figures of the number of children being abused every day. Many are fearful of disclosing. Often, when they do disclose they are not believed.
In response to growing awareness around child abuse, mandatory reporting laws have been introduced in every State. (Higgins, Bromfield, & Richardson, 2007) These laws have mandated that certain professionals working with children are legally obliged to report any child they suspect is being harmed or is at risk of being harmed. Although these laws differ between States, they are in place Australia-wide.
Rates of substantiated child abuse and neglect have remained relatively stable since 2012-13, at around 8.0 per 1,000 children. 151,980 children, a rate of 28.6 per 1,000 children, received child protection services (investigation, care and protection order and/or were in out-of-home care); three-quarters (73%) of these children had previously been the subject of an investigation, care and protection order and/or were in out-of-home care.
This is despite an increase in the number of children who were the subject of substantiations, which has risen by 35% since 2010-11 (from 31,527 to 42,457 in 2014-15). (Child Protection Australia report 2014-15; AIHW 2016).