Is the prevalence of child sexual abuse declining?
Yes. According to the most recent National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglecti, figures from 2005-2006 show a 38 percent drop in the number of cases of child sexual abuse reported to CPS investigations and community professionals since 1993. The number of sexually abused children decreased from 217,700 in 1993 to 135,300 in 2005-2006.
We are very encouraged by the declining number of children being abused. However, the majority of children who experience sexual abuse do not tell anyone. Seventy percent of the time when sexual abuse is going on, the child does not talk about it or tell anyone directly. This gap between the cases reported in this study and the actual number of children who are being abused is still a factor of 7.
Evidence of declining rates of reported abuse should be encouraging for everyone working to prevent and heal abuse. But we just don't have accurate numbers of how many children are being sexually abused or exploited at any given time. This is a reminder of the need to redouble our efforts at prevention by fostering the protective factors that reduce the risk of children being sexually harmed in the first place.
- "Understanding Child Sexual Abuse Definitions and Rates", National Sexual Violence Resource Center, August 2012
- "Researchers See Decline in Child Sexual Abuse Rate" New York Times, June 28, 2012
- Sedlak, A.J., Mettenburg, J., Basena, M., Petta, I., McPherson, K., Greene, A., and Li, S. (2010). Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS–4): Report to Congress. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families.
- "US Study shows drop in child sexual abuse" Associated Press-Boston Globe, February 2, 2010