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Teachers and Child Abuse Prevention

Joy Hay

In 1984 I heard it claimed that, 'Teachers rarely report child abuse, partly because they lack knowledge of how to identify and report and partly because they are reluctant to get involved in legal proceedings which might arise.'
Feeling sure that the claim was unsound- that teachers did report their concerns - I searched the literature and found, to my horror, that it is justified. In official statistics teachers were among the lowest reporters of child abuse in all countries which kept records. I also realised that as a teacher I had not reported cases of possible child abuse when children I had been teaching were showing obvious signs and symptoms of that abuse. There was a 6-year-old girl who masturbated frequently and played with the genitals of other children, and a 7-year-old who left stained pan ties in the toilet. But then, in the 1960's very few teachers had any knowledge about the sexual abuse of children and literature on child abuse in general was very limited.

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