In the aftermath of the World Cup 2018, some interesting statistics are now coming to light.   Attacking midfielder Ivan Perisic from Croatia covered the most distance, running a total of 73 km in 7 games. Goalkeeper Thibau Courtois from Belgium blocked 27 shots to goal, with a save rate of 81,8%. Russia was the target of about 25 million cyber-attacks during the World Cup.

Before England’s games, a tweet went viral revealing that domestic violence incidents increase by 26% when England plays and 38% when the team loses.

But what happens when a child is a victim or an observer of domestic violence? How does he/she handle violence at home? How does he/she escape harm? And what distance can he/she cover when running away towards safety?

Numerous studies have shown that domestic violence is the number one reason why children run away from home. A child’s maltreatment (as a victim or as an observer) can include physical, sexual or emotional abuse, exploitation and neglect. Neglect is the failure to provide for a child’s safety or basic physical, emotional, medical or educational needs. Signs of neglect may include poor hygiene, lack of medical or dental care, malnutrition or when children say that there is nobody at home to care for them. In 2011, the National Runaway Safeline (NRS) in Chicago USA  conducted a longitudinal study from data collected over 15 years by the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.  The nationally representative sample of over 15,000 adolescents followed them into adulthood with four longitudinal interview points. NRS examined the data related to the participants experiencing runaway episodes. In the aforementioned study it was found that youth that experience abuse (verbal, physical and sexual) had higher rates of running away.

A child’s reaction to incidents of domestic violence depend on various factors, such as – indicatively – age, sex, existence of siblings, personality and family history. Children that are exposed to single traumatic incidents demonstrate symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. On the contrary, children that have experienced long and repeated incidents of violence in the family have a more complex clinical image; in most cases there is a denial of what they have experienced, together with a strong emotional detachment and isolation from their surroundings. They develop personality changes which harm their self-image, as well as their ability to relate to others. Witnessing the ongoing abuse of a parent or experiencing child abuse, threats, or actual physical and sexual abuse are all too often the cause of youth running away or being forced from their homes. A life on the streets often exposes them to additional risks or victimization. What they have seen in an abusive home environment or experienced on the street is often repeated by the youth themselves in their own relationships. As they feel they have so little control over their lives, using violence in relationships may be a way of trying to feel more in control.

Professionals who work with runaway children, and domestic violence cases often have a common goal: to advance and strengthen the methods that locate and find runaway children, and to enhance the safety and healing of young people living in situations marked by violence and abuse. Recognizing and understanding the intersection of runaway and homeless youth, and domestic violence is critical to creating meaningful services and effective intervention and prevention strategies, as well as creating partnerships between the programs working with youth at risk.

Decades ago, the video clip of the song ‘Runaway train’ from the ‘90s by Soul Asylum, filled with scenes of abused children running away had a powerful impact: a child at risk, running to safety and reaching a dead-end.

Domestic violence and children running away are still hugely worrying issues that continue to exist everywhere in the world.

What must change is society’s perception and response to these issues. What can make a difference is the available tools and technology to allow society to have a role in resolving these issues. New technological development is not a closed lab-process, shared only among scientists and academics, anymore.

New technologies can provide solutions for social issues and these can be shared with the citizens. Citizens have long since started asking to have a role in solving social issues, to be a contributor to change. The latest technological projects aka ‘platforms for collective awareness’ allow citizens to have an active role in being part of the solution, for example by reporting child abuse or providing clues to finding a missing child.

ChildRescue is a platform developed to be one such solution. It is the response to a real social problem, a shared threat to society’s cohesion. In the case of a child running away or going missing for other reasons, ChildRescue engages with the public to quickly and more efficiently locate the child. This would allow for the faster coordination of all the organisations and authorities involved in safeguarding children.

Hopefully, for the next edition of the World Cup, society will be more aware and more prepared to respond to the negative outcomes of these large sporting events as well.