Objective: To assess the prevalence of child abuse among high school students in Curaçao.
Methods: A questionnaire survey among high school students up to 17 years of age was conducted. The questionnaire was based on existing literature and validated questionnaires. The questionnaire used was analysed and adapted to the situation in Curaçao by a panel of experts on child abuse. The primary objective was to gain insight into the incidence, prevalence and various forms of child abuse among students in Curaçao. Five forms of child abuse are distinguished in the literature: physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, neglect and exploitation. Furthermore, the degree of confidence of the students in general practitioners (GPs) as care providers in the field of child abuse was explored.
Results: Questionnaires from 545 of the 628 respondents were included. In total, 43% of the respondents had ever-experienced an event which could be defined as (a form of) child abuse. More than onethird of the respondents reporting child abuse ever had an experience that could be interpreted as physical abuse. More than 15% of the respondents reporting child abuse had experienced sexual abuse. Girls experienced significantly more sexual abuse than boys. Emotional abuse in the last year was experienced by 3% of the respondents. One per cent of the respondents ever-experienced neglect. According to most respondents, GPs were not seen as care providers in cases of child abuse; they believed that GPs were mainly to be consulted for illnesses or physical symptoms and not for forms of child abuse.
Conclusion: The prevalence of ever-having-experienced a form of child abuse is estimated at 431 per 1000 students. Child abuse, particularly physical abuse, is common in Curaçao, and is probably
comparable to other surrounding countries. General practitioners were not seen as care providers in identifying and reporting cases of child abuse according to most respondents.