Are Child Sexual Abuse Rates Really Declining?

Experts are not sure why child abuse rates have declined, but heightened awareness, better policies, education and training, and prevention programs may be the reason.

According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network), 15 percent of sexual assault and rape cases occur among children under the age of 12, with 93 percent of juvenile sexual assault perpetuated by someone they know. Of those assaults, 34.2 percent of attackers were family members, 58.7 percent were acquaintances and only 7 percent were complete strangers.
While nearly 80,000 incidents of child sexual abuse are reported to authorities each year, the Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry says six million children are abused nationwide each year.
Those numbers are incredibly worrisome, but the good news is more victims are coming forward to report abuse, and rates of abuse have declined 60 percent between from 1992 to 2010.
The New York Times reported:
The evidence for this decline comes from a variety of indicators, including national surveys of child abuse and crime victimization, crime statistics compiled by the F.B.I., analyses of data from the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect and annual surveys of grade school students in Minnesota, all pointing in the same direction.
From 1990 to 2010, for example, substantiated cases of sexual abuse dropped from 23 per 10,000 children under 18 to 8.6 per 10,000, a 62 percent decrease, with a 3 percent drop from 2009 to 2010, according to the researchers’ analysis of government data. The Minnesota Student Survey charted a 29 percent decline in reports of sexual abuse by an adult who was not a family member from 1992 to 2010 and a 28 percent drop in reports of sexual abuse by a family member. The majority of sexual abuse cases involve family members or acquaintances rather than strangers, studies have found.

Experts are not exactly sure why this decline has happened, but Dr. David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, told the Times that heightened awareness, better policies, education and training, and prevention programs may be the reason.
Yet there are some advocates who are skeptical, especially when it comes to rates in different communities of color where there is less dialogue and funding. There are also worries that funding will decrease if sexual abuse is not viewed as a serious epidemic.
Regardless of whether these rates are going down, the Jerry Sandusky trial is a constant reminder that all parents need to talk to their children about sex, healthy boundaries and the dangers of pedophiles.
For advice on how to talk about sexual abuse, click here.
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(Photo: Jessica Rinaldi/Landov)

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