Torture and violence on children by parents


Author: Ms. Lepakshi Thakur, Chanderprabhu Jain College of Higher Studies

The study intended to detect the characteristics and frequency of physical and emotional violence against children by their biological parents and the relationship between children’s characteristics, family factors and the extent of violent acts against children.

Families embrace the greatest prospective for protecting children from all forms of violence. Families can also empower children to protect themselves.

But families can be unsafe places for children and in particular for babies and young children. The popularity of violence against children by parents and other close family members – physical, sexual and psychological violence, as well as deliberate neglect. Stimulating violence against children is most problematic in the context of the family in all its methods. Younger children tend to be more susceptible to violence in the home. 

Everywhere that sexual violence has been studied, it is acknowledged that an extensive proportion of children are sexually harassed and violated by the people closest to them. Involuntary sex within forced and early marriage is common in many States.

Sexual and gender-based violence has intense implications in the era of HIV/AIDS, and also compromises self-esteem, psychological and emotional health. The consequences of all forms of home and family violence for future development, behavior and well-being in adulthood, and for future parenting, are profound.


Methods of violence to which a child will be exposed vary according to age and stage of development, especially as the child starts to interact with the world outside the home. Infants and young children are more likely to be mistreated by primary caregivers and other family members because of their dependence on adult caregivers and limited independent social interactions outside the home. However, there are many similarities in terms of age as well as forms of violence, and in terms of committers. In the home and family setting, children go through assaults and other acts of physical violence, sexual violation, harmful traditional practices, humiliation.


 In countries where homicide statistics are examined according to the age of the victim, 15–17-year olds are the age group that is most at risk. The second high-risk group is new-borns. Data from OECD countries submit that the risk of death is about three times more for children under one year old than for those aged 1 to 4, who in return face double the risk of those aged 5 to 14. The younger the child, the more probable of their death will be caused by a close family member.


Physical violence is an intentional use of physical force against a child that either result in or has a high likelihood of resulting in harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity. Children around the world experience hitting, kicking, shaking, beating, bites, burns, strangulation, poisoning and suffocation by members of their family. In extreme cases, this violence can result in a child’s death, in disability, or in severe physical injury. In other cases, physical violence may leave no observable sign of injury. In all instances, however, physical violence has a negative impact on a child’s psychological health and development.


Neglect is a significant contributor to death and illness in young children. Neglect means the failure of parents or carers to meet a child’s physical and emotional needs when they have the means, knowledge, and access to services to do so; or failure to protect her or him from experience to danger. However, in many settings, the line between what is caused intentionally and what is caused by ignorance or lack of care possibilities may be hard to draw. 


Most of the sexual violence is perpetrated by family members or other people residing in or visiting a child’s family home – people normally trusted by children and often responsible for their care. 

Parent characteristics and socio-economic status

Studies from a range of different settings show that stumpy parental education levels, lack of income, and household congestion upsurge the risk of physical and psychological violence against children. Physically fierce parents are also more likely to be young, poor and single. These relations are likely to be related to stress caused by poverty, unemployment, and social isolation. 


Studies from both industrialized and developing countries show that many of the personality and behavioral characteristics of violent parents are related to poor social functioning and diminished capacity to cope with stress. Parents with poor impulse control, low self-esteem, mental health problems, and substance abuse (alcohol and drugs) are more likely to use physical violence against their children and/or to neglect them.138 Parents who use violence against their children may well have experienced violence as children.


The consequences of violence against children include both the immediate personal impacts and the damage that they carry forward into later childhood, adolescence and adult life. The violence that children experience in the context of home and family can lead to lifelong consequences for their health and development. They may lose trust in other human beings essential to normal human development.


The Turpin family

Turpin case is child abuse and captivity incident discovered in PerrisCaliforniaUnited States, in which David and Louise Turpin imprisoned their thirteen children for years or decades. On January 14, 2018, one of the children escaped and contacted police who, upon entering the home, found some of the children in a dark, foul-smelling room. The siblings ranged in age from 2 to 29, with seven of the thirteen children being legal adults (ages 18 and up) at the time of the parents’ arrest in January 2018.

The Turpins shackled, beat and strangled their children, allowing them to eat just once per day and shower just once per year. According to investigators, the older children were so malnourished that they appeared to be much younger. The eldest, a 29-year-old woman, weighed just 82 pounds (37 kg). Some of the siblings appeared to lack basic knowledge of the world, being unfamiliar with what medicine and police were.

The Turpins were arrested and detained but pleaded not guilty to all charges. Various legal charges and court hearings followed in the succeeding months. On February 22, 2019, the couple changed their pleas to guilty on fourteen felony counts, including “cruelty to an adult-dependent, child cruelty, torture, and false imprisonment“. On April 19, 2019, the couple was sentenced to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole after 25 years, although experts believed they would never receive parole due to the severity of the crimes.


David and Louise Turpin were arrested during the raid on suspicion of child endangerment and torture and held at a Riverside County jail on $9-$12 million bails each. Police searched the Turpins’ property on January 17, taking away black plastic bags of evidence. Hundreds of journals written by the children about their experiences over the previous years were recovered from the home.

The Turpins were charged with twelve counts of torture, twelve counts of false imprisonment, seven counts of abuse of a dependent adult, and six counts of child abuse. David received an additional charge of a lewd act on a child under 14 years old. Upon announcing the charges against the Turpins, Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said, “The abuse and severe neglect intensified over time and intensified as they moved to California. The couple pleaded not guilty to the charges.


After the arrest, visitors left notes, balloons, and flowers at the house for the Turpin children. In November, the house was foreclosed on by the lender. Thieves and vandals later struck the house, knowing it was unoccupied. The property was put up for sale through an auction site in late December 2018; appraised at around $40,000 higher, it sold for a high bid of $310,000 in early February 2019. In February 2019, David said he hopes the children forgive him.


Violence against women occurs throughout the life cycle from pre-birth, infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood to senescence. Most of the data are believed to be unreliable as many cases go unreported. Cases of violence against women are steadily increasing in the country. According to the National Crime Record Bureau, India, there is one dowry death in the country every 78 h, one act of sexual harassment every 59 min, one rape every 34 min, one act of torture every 12 min and almost one in every three married women experienced domestic violence.


For a large number of girls – and some boys – the first experience of sexual intercourse in adolescence is unwanted and even coerced, and a proportion of these rapes occur in the context of intimate partnerships and under age permanent unions or marriages. There can also be violence in the context of dating, but this type of non-formal partnership relationships between adolescent boys and girls tends to occur outside the home and family context.


Child marriage is common in South Asia, West Africa, and some countries in East and Southern Africa – especially Mozambique, Uganda, and Ethiopia. In some countries – mostly in West Africa, but including Bangladesh and Nepal – about 60% of girls are married by the age of 18, and in at least 28 countries, the proportion is 30%.  Although the majority of countries have legislation which prohibits marriage of girls under the age of 16, and some forbid marriage under the age of 18, such laws are frequently ignored such as marriages are not registered, customary or religious rules are accepted, with few cases resulting in court proceedings.


Married girls experience a significant amount of violence from their husbands and their in-laws. Physical violence against married girls by their spouses can include pushing, shaking, slapping, punching, biting, kicking, dragging, strangling, burning, and threatening/attacking with a weapon. In societies, a custom of dowry, intimate partner violence against the young bride can result from her family’s failure to pay the dowry, or her husband’s or in-laws’ dissatisfaction with the amount. Many married girls experience sexual violence from their partners; they may be physically forced or threatened into having sexual intercourse against their will, or they may have sexual intercourse because they are afraid of what their partner will do if they refuse, or they may be forced to do something sexual that they find degrading or humiliating. In societies where the cultural norm is for men to have unlimited sexual access to women upon marriage, married girls are likely to experience forced and traumatic sexual initiation.


Legislation by itself would not be sufficient because violence against women is a deep-rooted social problem. It is worth quoting late Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, who remarked: “Legislation cannot by itself normally solve deep-rooted social problems. One has to approach them in other ways too, but legislation is necessary and essential and hence that it may give that push and have educative factors, as well as the legal sanctions behind it, which help public opinion to be given a certain shape.

Women cannot solve the problems by themselves. Women should understand men and men should understand women. Both should work together to eradicate the menace.


What many do not realize, but which research continues to show, is that a variety of interventions can prevent violence: violence against children in the home and family setting can be reduced significantly by the implementation of laws, policies, and which strengthen and support families. Promising strategies to prevent violence against children in the home and family context are many and varied, ranging from programs with a direct impact, such as parenting training, to policies with a more indirect impact, such as those governing alcohol availability or access to family planning services.


Home visitation involves health professionals, social workers or trained volunteers in the assessment of infants and young children’s needs and their parents’ capacity to meet those needs, given the family’s current social and economic situation. Personalized home visits aim to provide emotional support and training to promote positive parental knowledge, skills and behavior, and to a certain extent to assess the family. Home visits also offer an opportunity to link a family with other community services as needed.

Programs usually educate parents about child development and aim to improve their skills for management. Parents’ and caregivers’ positive behavior management skills can be improved by developing an understanding of the importance of follow-through and consistency, rewarding and reinforcing positive behavior, strategically ignoring minor negative behaviors, giving effective instructions, and implementing nonviolent consequences for misbehavior. 


A wife can file it against her husband and in-laws, a mother can complain against her son, a girl can complain against an abusive father or brother. 


Approach the nearest police station to file an FIR (First Information Report)

Request the police officer on duty to register an FIR. They are bound by their to do so and cannot refuse.

TIP: If you are told by the police that the incident does not fall under their jurisdiction then ask them to register a ‘ZERO FIR’ (it is an FIR without number and can be later transferred to the relevant Police Station.)


Most of the States in India have the facility of filing an FIR online. If you happen to be a resident of any of such states, then filing an FIR online can be a great alternative to visiting an actual police station and pouring your heart out to police personnel!

For more info on the list of states in India offering online FIR facility, please visit


There are Helplines in India that help women at the time the crises. They may assist the victim and guide her through legal procedures. Mighty laws bring you the compiled list of helplines which can be called at the time of crises. The list also includes the name of organizations which provide women free legal aid in order to assist them to fight court case against the abuser.  

Central Social Welfare Board -Police Helpline1091/ 1291 (011) 23317004
Shakti Shalini10920
Shakti Shalini – women’s shelter(011) 24373736/ 24373737
SAARTHAK(011) 26853846/ 26524061
All India Women’s Conference10921/ (011) 23389680
JAGORI(011) 26692700
Joint Women’s Programme (also has branches in Bangalore, Kolkata, Chennai)(011) 24619821
Sakshi – violence intervention center(0124) 2562336/ 5018873
Saheli – a womens organization(011) 24616485 (Saturdays)
Nirmal Niketan(011) 27859158
Nari Raksha Samiti(011) 23973949
RAHI Recovering and Healing from Incest. A support centre for women survivors of child sexual abuse.
(011) 26238466/ 26224042 26227647


Human Rights Law Network runs Madhyam Helpline and provide Legal Services(011) 24316922/ 24324503
Lawyers Collective Womens Rights Initiative (LC WRI runs a pro-bono legal aid cell for domestic violence cases)(011) 24373993/ 24372923
MARG (Multiple Action Research Group)(011) 26497483 / 26496925
Delhi Police HELPLINE1091
Delhi Commission for Women(011) 23379181/ 23370597
Women’s Cell, Delhi Police(011) 24673366 / 4156 / 7699
National Human Rights Commission(011) 23385368/9810298900
Pratidhi(011) 22527259


A phone number that spells hope for millions of children across India, CHILDLINE is India’s first 24-hours, free, emergency phone service for children in need of aid and assistance. Whether you are a connected adult or a child, you can dial 1098, the toll-free number to access our services.