Parents do all that they can to keep their children safe but, sadly, children die in violent acts each day. So how many children are victims of homicide each year? Recent events in Minnesota have once again sparked that discussion, after the murder of 5-year-old Alayna Ertl by a family friend, and, in the very same state, the death of a 7-month-old infant at the hands of a 24-year-old man. These unsettling, despicable acts continue to mount, flooding the news with stories of enraged father figures, of friends, parents, and strangers, and, ultimately, the loss of young life.
UNICEF's 2014 report "Hidden in Plain Sight: A statistical analysis of violence against children" sought, in part, to answer the questions surrounding child homicide. According to the report, "In 2012 alone, murders claimed the lives of about 95,000 children and adolescents aged 0 to 19 – almost one in five of all homicide victims that year." Their worldwide research found that about 90 percent of these victims lived in low- and middle-income countries, with Latin America and the Caribbean having the highest levels of child homicide.
It was also discovered that boys are most at risk of homicide in every region measured, though the differences between male and female homicides vary. On average, though, boys suffer 70 percent of homicides while girls suffer 30 percent.
In the United States specifically, UNICEF reports that there are about four annual child homicides for every 100,000 people. The majority of western European nations, in comparison, average around zero to one homicide per 100,000. Conversely, El Salvador reports 27 child homicides per every 100,000, Guatemala reports 22, and Venezuela reports 20.
In another study, the U.S. Department of Justice's study on homicide trends from 1980-2008 found that children under 14 accounted for 1.5 homicides per 100,000 people in 2008. In a similar timeframe, teens had a 5.1 per 100,000 victimization rate. From 1980-2008, 10 percent of U.S. homicide victims were children under 18.
A 2015 study by Child Trends examined infant homicide found that "the risk of infant homicide is highest on the day of birth, and a tenth of all infant homicides occur by the first month of life," a value that is "greater during this period than in any other year of childhood before age 18." Child Trends found a 7.2 per 100,000 homicide rate among infants in 2013.
Though absolutely terrifying, this information is meant to shed light on oft overlooked statistics rather than scare the public from talking through these issues. Together, we can focus on lessening the numbers. Child homicide victims deserve our care and commitment, honoring their passing with acknowledgement and action.