Vol. 10, No. 2 • May 2006

Statistics on Child Sexual Abuse in the U.S.

The National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect recognizes that the statistics we have for child maltreatment are vast underestimates, since most abuse and neglect never comes to the attention of state agencies. Nevertheless, the following can help us understand the scope and nature of child sexual abuse:

In 2003, the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System reported 78,188 victims of sexual abuse in the U.S. (USDHHS, 2005). This is a rate of 1.2 per 1,000 American children (Douglas & Finklehor, 2005).

In 2003 sexual abuse accounted for 10% of all confirmed child maltreatment cases in the U.S. (USDHHS, 2005). In North Carolina that year, sexual abuse accounted for 3.46% of all maltreatment substantiations (NCDSS, 2006). Although we do not know the percentage, the number of children in foster care in North Carolina who have been sexually abused is likely MUCH higher than 10%.

Between 1992 and 2000 the annual number of substantiated sexual abuse cases dropped from 149,800 to 89,355, a 40% decline. Researchers believe a real decline, as opposed to changes in reporting trends or data collection, is responsible for this drop (Finklehor & Jones, 2004).

Girls are sexually abused three times more often than boys (Sedlak & Broadhurst, 1996).

Children of all ages are at risk, though teens may be at higher risk (Douglas & Finklehor, 2005).

Sexual abuse is commonly associated with other family problems, such as parental alcoholism, parental rejection, and parental marital conflict (Douglas & Finklehor, 2005).

More than 90% are men (Douglas & Finklehor, 2005). However, some believe sexual abuse by women is underreported. Offenders are most often acquaintances (approximately 50%) followed by family members (approximately 25% to 33%) and strangers (7% to 25%) (Douglas & Finklehor, 2005).


Copyright 2006 Jordan Institute for Families