How Often Are Children Sexually Abused?

Child sexual abuse is so often hidden, the statistics vary widely. The research that has been done shows that it widespread and has a devastating impact on families and communities:

  • As many as one in three girls and one in seven boys will be sexually abused at some point in their childhood.
    Briere, J., Eliot, D.M. Prevalence and Psychological Sequence of Self-Reported Childhood Physical and Sexual Abuse in General Population: Child Abuse and Neglecti, 2003, 27 10.

  • This corresponds to results from Stop It Now! telephone public opinion surveys in the US: 29% of women and 14% of men surveyed reported having been sexually abused as children.
    Stop It Now! meta-analysis of ten random digit dialed telephone surveys between 1997 and 2007. See the report:What do US Adults Think About Child Sexual Abuse?
  • Over 78,000 cases of child sexual abuse were reported and substantiatedi in 2006, (Child Maltreatment 2006.) However, this does not include the majority of cases which are never reported to authorities. Only between 12% (see Hanson, 1999) and 30% of cases (Finkelhor, 2008) are reported to authorities. Based on reporting percentages, the real number could be anywhere from 260,000-650,000 a year.
  • Globally, prevalence rates show that a range of 7-36% of  women and 3-29% of men experience sexual abuse in childhood. (Dartnall E, Jewkes R, Sexual violence against women: The scope of the problem, Best Practice & Research Clinical Obstetrics and Gynaecology (2012),

Child sexual abuse happens in all racial, religious, ethnic and age groups, and at all socio-economic levels. Since children are abused in homes across the country, adults need to learn what makes children vulnerable, how to recognize warning signs of those who may be sexually abusing children and what to do if sexual abuse is suspected.