The Scope of Child Sexual Abuse
How pervasive a problem is child sexual abuse? The data are alarming. According to various research estimates, an astounding 25-40% of women and 8-13% of men experience at least one episode of sexual abuse victimization before they reach their 18th birthday. According to the Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, an estimated 4.3 million referrals involving maltreatment of approximately 7.8 million children were received by Child Protection Services (CPS) agencies nationwide in 2015. Of those, approximately 7% involved sexual abuse. The report also estimated that 1,670 children died from abuse and neglect.
Closer to home, the scope of child abuse and neglect is no less concerning. In the same calendar year (2015), the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) received 95,000 reports of the alleged abuse or neglect of children under the age of 18. More than 44,000 reports were screened in for a response, and the number of supported allegations of abuse or neglect represented the maltreatment of a minor child every 11-12 minutes.
Even more staggering: An estimated 70-90 percent of child sexual abuse incidents are not reported. It has also been estimated that child sexual abuse could affect as many as one in ten children nationwide.
Some common misconceptions concerning the scope of child sexual abuse:
Sexual abuse means sexual penetration.
Sexually abusive acts include sexual penetration—but also include sexual touching, sexual exploitation, or non-contact sexual acts such as exposure, voyeurism, and showing a child pornography.
Children are usually sexually abused by strangers.
National statistics indicate that the majority of sexual offenses (about 85 percent) are carried out by a person in the child’s family or social network—not strangers.
Only adults sexually assault children.
Approximately 40 percent of those who commit sexual offenses against children under the age of 11 years are juveniles—many of whom have been victimized themselves.
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