Bringing the power of data to end violence against children to Capitol Hill

21st March 2024


  • Mia Mazer
    Mia Mazer

    Policy & Advocacy Officer,
    Together for Girls

  • Chrissy Hart
    Chrissy Hart

    Director of Policy & Advocacy; Regional Lead, Sub-Saharan Africa,
    Together for Girls

One billion children, or one out of every two children globally, experienced violence in the past year. The scale of this public health and human rights crisis can feel overwhelming, but we know there are solutions. Quality, comprehensive data is critical to illuminating the pervasive problem of violence against children (VAC) and can be used to inform evidence-based solutions that have delivered proven results.

To engage Congress on the ability of data to drive policy and programmatic change to end violence against children, the Ending Violence Against Children (EVAC) Taskforce and Thrive Coalition, in cooperation with U.S. Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA-02) and Maria Salazar (R-FL-27), hosted a congressional briefing that was widely attended by House and Senate staffers.

Featuring speakers Dr. Daniela Ligiero, PhD, Chief Executive Officer & President of Together for Girls and Dr. Greta Massetti, PhD, Principal Deputy Director for CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, the event focused on the Violence Against Children and Youth Surveys (VACS) and how data generated by the VACS have informed evidence-based solutions to prevent violence against children globally.

EVAC Taskforce
Speakers Dr. Daniela Ligiero, PhD, Chief Executive Officer & President of Together for Girls and Dr. Greta Massetti, PhD, Principal Deputy Director for CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

The VACS are nationally representative household surveys capturing the prevalence, nature, and consequences of physical, sexual, and emotional violence against children, adolescents, and youth. They are supported by the U.S. Government and are the largest global data source for violence against children, adolescents, and youth worldwide. VACS data help to shed light on the relationship between children’s socioeconomic status, food security, access to water, education, physical and mental health, and vulnerability to violence.

Led by national governments with technical assistance and support from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the VACS are implemented as part of the Together for Girls (TfG) partnership. This approach embeds the VACS in national structures to enable ownership, build capacity, and lay the groundwork for a comprehensive response.

We really want to build the capacity of countries to be able to own the problem and own the solutions for the problem.

Greta Masseti, Principal Deputy Director, CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control

Effectively addressing violence against children and youth requires not only understanding the magnitude and nature of the problem but also responding with a coordinated, multi-sector approach to prevention and response. Once data collection is complete, the national government and other key stakeholders use VACS data and the INSPIRE framework to identify opportunities for improving policies and programs.

VACS partners, including CDC, UNICEF, and national civil society organizations support this work. In every country that has undergone a VACS, the results have been used to inform plans, policies, and strategies to address violence against children. Some countries choose to integrate violence prevention measures into overall development strategies, improve existing plans and policies related to children, or develop stand-alone national plans to prevent and respond to violence against children. Thus far, 13 countries have launched National Action Plans to end violence against children as part of their post-survey national response; several more are in process.

VACS data has catalyzed policy and programmatic change that led to measurable reductions in violence. For example, in Kenya a repeat VACS was conducted in 2019, almost ten years after the country’s first VACS, showing promising reductions in violence across almost all indicators. For 18-24-year-olds reporting any childhood sexual violence, rates among boys decreased by two-thirds, from 18% to 6%, and rates among girls dropped by half from 32% to 16%.

Data from 2019 VACS in Kenya helped inform the implementation of the violence prevention program Coaching Boys Into Men (CBIM), a program spearheaded by Futures Without Violence.

CBIM is the only evidence-based violence prevention program that trains athletic coaches to serve as mentors to young athletes (adolescent boys ages 9-14 years of age).

The curriculum consists of coach-to-athlete trainings that teach the importance of developing healthy relationships, preventing relationship abuse, harassment, and sexual assault, and creating respectful and nonviolent communities. In addition to Kenya, the program has been implemented in the U.S. and in 8 other countries.

VACS data informs additional U.S. foreign assistance programming like PEPFAR programming, especially the DREAMS program (Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored and Safe). DREAMS aims to empower and support adolescent girls and young women and prevent HIV, including through gender-based violence prevention and response. In 2022, DREAMS reached 2.9 million girls through its HIV prevention services and programs, playing a critical role in continuing to reduce the burden of HIV among vulnerable populations.

Meet the participants of the DREAMS programme:

Over ten years of investments in VACS globally, with support from the U.S. Government, have catalyzed real impact for children, adolescents, and youth and emphasized the power of data to drive action. Many countries have implemented successful prevention programs after completing a VACS and have seen subsequent reductions in childhood violence. These successes underscore the need for a comprehensive, whole-child approach to U.S. foreign assistance.

The United States has established itself as a global leader in improving protections for children from exploitation and violence and its continued leadership is necessary now more than ever to build the resources and capacity of countries to champion both the problems and solutions to ending violence against children.

Members of the EVAC Taskforce include American Academy of Pediatrics, ChildFund, Futures Without Violence, International Justice Mission,Together for Girls, UNICEF, and World Vision. The Taskforce seeks to prioritize ending violence against children in U.S. foreign policy and assistance.