Abuse Statistics

Child Sexual Abuse Statistics

Prevalence of Child Sexual Abuse:

  • Each year, state governments substantiate 63,000 (Children’s Bureau, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services 2010) to 135,000 cases of child sexual abuse. (NIS-4, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services 2010).
  • Adult retrospective studies show that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men were sexually abused before the age of 18 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2006). This means there are more than 42 million adult survivors of child sexual abuse in the U.S.
  • The primary reason that the public is not sufficiently aware of child sexual abuse as a problem is that 73% of child victims do not tell anyone about the abuse for at least a year. 45% of victims do not tell anyone for at least 5 years. Some never disclose (Smith et al., 2000; Broman-Fulks et al., 2007).
  • Nearly 70% of all reported sexual assaults (including assaults on adults) occur to children ages 17 and under (Snyder, 2000). 

Immediate Consequences for the Child

  • Children who are sexually abused are at significantly greater risk for later posttraumatic stress and other anxiety symptoms (McLeer et al., 1998), depression (Kilpatrick, et al., 2003; Tebbutt, et. al., 1997; Wozencraft, et. al., 1991) and suicide attempts (Dube et al., 2005; Waldrop et al., 2007).
  • These psychological problems can lead to significant disruptions in normal development and often have a lasting impact, leading to dysfunction and distress well into adulthood (Banyard, et. al., 2001; Briere et. al., 1994; Browne et. al., 1986; Molnar et. al., 2001; Polunsy, et. al., 1995; Saunders et al., 1999; Young, et. al., 2007).
  • Behavioral problems, including physical aggression, non-compliance, and oppositionality occur frequently among sexually abused children and adolescents (Dubowitz, et al., 1993).
  • Child sexual abuse has been linked to higher levels of risk behaviors (Acierno et al., 2000; Felitti et al., 1998; Springs & Friedrich, 1992; Walker et al., 1999).
  • Sexually abused children tended to perform lower on psychometric tests measuring cognitive ability, academic achievement, and memory assessments when compared to same-age non-sexually abused cohorts (Friedrich, et. al., 1994; Sadeh, et. al., 1994; Trickett, et. al., 1994; Wells, et. al., 1997).
  • Studies indicate that sexual abuse exposure among children and adolescents is associated with high school absentee rates (Leiter & Johnson, 1997), more grade retention (Reyome, 1994), increased need for special education services (Reyome, 1994) and difficulty with school adaptation.
  • 39% of 7-12 year-old girls with a history of child sexual abuse had academic difficulties (Daignault and Herbert, 2009).
  • 7-12 year-old girls with a history of child sexual abuse were 50% more likely to display cognitive ability below the 25th percentile (Daignault and Herbert, 2009).
  • 26% of 7-12 year-old girls with a history of child sexual abuse reported that their grades dropped after they were abused and 48% had below-average grades (Daignault and Herbert, 2009)
  • A history of child sexual abuse significantly increases the chance of dropping out of school (Beitchman et al., 1992; Briere; Elliott, 1994; Browne and Finkelhor, 1986; Polunsy and Follette, 1995; Saunders et al., 1999).
  • A number of studies have found that adolescents with a history of child sexual abuse demonstrate a 3 to 4-fold increase in rates of substance abuse/dependence (Kilpatrick, et. al., 2003; Acierno et al., 2000; Felitti et al., 1998; Springs & Friedrich, 1992; Walker et al., 1999).
  • Drug abuse is more common than alcohol abuse for adolescent child sexual abuse victims. Age of onset for nonexperimental drug use was 14.4 years old for victims, compared to 15.1 years old for nonvictimized youth (Kilpatrick et al., 2000).
  • Adolescents were 2 to 3 times more likely to have an alcohol use/dependence problem than nonvictims (Kilpatrick et al., 2000).
  • Adolescents who were sexually abused have a 3 to 5-fold risk of delinquency (Kilpatrick, et. al., 2003).
  • Behavioral problems, including physical aggression, non-compliance, and oppositionality occur frequently among sexually abused children and adolescents (Dubowitz, et al., 1993).
  • These emotional and behavioral difficulties can lead to delinquency, poor school performance and dropping out of school (Beitchman et al., 1992; Briere & Elliott, 1994; Browne & Finkelhor, 1986; Polunsy & Follette, 1995; Saunders et al., 1999).
  • Adolescents that reported victimization (i.e., sexual abuse or physical abuse) were more likely to be arrested than their non-abused peers (Widom & Maxfield, 2001)
  • Sexually abused children were nearly twice as likely to run away from home (Siegel & Williams, 2003). Girls who are sexually abused are 2.2 times as likely as non-abused peers to become teen mothers (Noll, Shenk, & Putnam, 2009).
  • 45% of pregnant teens report a history of child sexual abuse (Noll, Shenk, & Putnam, 2009).
  • Males who are sexually abused are more likely than their non-abused peers to impregnate a teen. In fact, several studies indicate that the sexual abuse of boys is a stronger risk factor for teen pregnancy than the sexual abuse of girls (Herrenkohl, et. al., 1998; Raj, et. al., 2000; Saewyc, et. al., 2004).
  • Most sexual abuse incidents reported by pregnant teens occurred well before the incident that resulted in pregnancy. Only 11-13% of pregnant girls with a history of child sexual abuse reported that they had become pregnant as a direct result of this abuse (Boyer & Fine, 1992; Herrenkohl, et. al., 1998
  • It is estimated that approximately one-third of abused and neglected children will eventually victimize their own children (Prevent Child Abuse New York, 2003).

Long Term Consequences of Child Sexual Abuse

  • Female adult survivors of child sexual abuse are nearly three times more likely to report substance use problems (40.5% versus 14% in general population), (Simpson and Miller, 2002).
  • Male adult CSA victims 2.6 times more likely to report substance use problems (65% versus 25% in general population), (Simpson and Miller, 2002).
  • Abused or neglected individuals 1.5 times more likely to report lifetime illicit drug use (Widom, Marmorstein, & White, 2006). Adult women who were sexually abused as a child are more than twice as likely to suffer from depression as women who were not sexually abused (Rohde, et. al., 2008).
  • Adults with a history of child sexual abuse are more than twice as likely to report a suicide attempt (Dube, et. al., 2005, Waldrop, et. al., 2007).
  • Girls who are sexually abused are 3 times more likely to develop psychiatric disorders than girls who are not sexually abused (Day, et. al., 2003; Kendler, et. al., 2000; Voeltanz, et. al., 1999).
  • Among male survivors, more than 70% seek psychological treatment for issues such as substance abuse, suicidal thoughts and attempted suicide (Walrath, et. al., 2003).
  • 20 – 24 year-old women who were sexually abused as children were four times more likely than their non-abused peers to be diagnosed with an eating disorder (Fuemmeler, et. al., 2009).
  • Middle-aged women who were sexually abused as children were twice as likely to be obese when compared with their non-abused peers (Rohde, et. al., 2008).
  • Generally, adult victims of child sexual abuse have higher rates of health care utilization and report significantly more health complaints compared to adults without a CSA history (Arnow, 2004; Golding, Cooper, and George, 1997; Thompson, Arias, Basile and Desai, 2002). This is true for both self reported doctor’s visits and objective examination of medical records (Newman et al., 2000). These health problems represent a burden both to the survivor and the healthcare system.
  • Adult survivors of child sexual abuse are at greater risk of a wide range of conditions that are non-life threatening and are potentially psychosomatic in nature. These include fibromyalgia (Walker et al, 1997), severe premenstrual syndrome (Golding, Taylor, Menard, & King, 2000), chronic headaches (Peterlin, Ward, Lidicker, & Levin, 2007), irritable bowel syndrome and a wide range of reproductive and sexual health complaints, including excessive bleeding, amenorrhea, pain during intercourse and menstrual irregularity (Golding, 1996).
  • Not only do survivors of child sexual abuse have more minor health conditions, they are at greater risk for more serious conditions as well. Adults with a history of child sexual abuse are 30% more likely than their non-abused peers to have a serious medical condition such as diabetes, cancer, heart problems, stroke or hypertension (Sachs-Ericsson, et. al., 2005).
  • Male sexual abuse survivors have twice the HIV-infection rate of non-abused males (Zierler, et. al., 1991). In a study of HIV-infected 12-20 year olds, 41 percent reported a sexual abuse history (Dekker, et. al. 1990).
  • Adult survivors were more than twice as likely to be arrested for a property offense (9.3% versus 4.4%), (Siegel and Williams, 2003).
  • As adults, child sexual abuse victims were almost twice as likely to be arrested for a violent offense (20.4% versus 10.7%), (Siegel & Williams, 2003).
  • Males who have been sexually abused are more likely to violently victimize others (Walrath, et. al., 2003).
  • An average of quality-of-life court awards (primarily lost earning potential) for a survivor of child sexual abuse is $115,000 in 2010 dollars (U.S. Department of Justice, 1996).
  • The total estimated cost of child abuse and neglect in the United States is approximately $103 billion dollars a year (Wang & Holton 2007).

Characteristics of Sex Offenders

  • Sex offenders often have multiple victims. In a study of 561 sex offenders, the men in the study accounted for the sexual abuse of 195,000 children. (Abel, Becker, Cunningham-Rathner, et al, Multiple Paraphilic Diagnosis Among Sex Offenders, 16 Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law 153-168 (1988).
  • The chance of getting caught for sexually abusing a child is as low as 3% (Abel, et al, 1988).
  • Many sex offenders carefully groom their victims and the families of their victims in an effort to gain the trust of the child and the family. (Salter, 1995).
  • Most sex offenders are male but as many as 20% of adults who sexually abuse a child may be female (Grayston & De Luca 1999).