National Overview

  • A child is abused or neglected in the United States every 40 seconds.
  • The national rate of child abuse (physical, emotional, sexual and neglect) is ten times greater than the rate of cancer.
  • 1 in 4 girls is sexually abused before the age of 18; 1 in 6 boys is sexually abused before the age of 18.
  • 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. today.

Even within the walls of their own homes, children are at risk for sexual abuse.

  • 39% of victims are sexually abused by a family member.
  • Another 56% are sexually abused by someone outside of the family whom they know and trust.
  • Approximately 40% are sexually abused by older or larger children whom they know.
  • Only 5% are sexually abused by strangers.

Sexual abuse can occur at all ages, probably younger than you think.

  • The median age for reported abuse is 9 years old.

Most children don’t tell even if they have been asked.

  • Evidence that a child has been sexually abused is not always obvious and most show no physical signs at all.
  • 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; 30% of victims never disclose (Smith et al., 2000; Broman-Fulks et al., 2007).
  • Younger victims may not recognize their victimization as sexual abuse because it started at such a young age and seems “normal.”
  • Almost 80% of children initially deny abuse or are tentative in disclosing. Of those who do disclose, approximately 75% disclose accidentally. Additionally, of those who do disclose, more than 20% eventually recant their story of abuse out of fear of reprisal.