Rates of Childhood Sexual Abuse Down from Previous Generations

with No Comments


png graph






Source: National  Child  Abuse  and  Neglect  Data  System (NCANDS), which aggregates and publishes statistics from state  child protection agencies.

Funny enough, I’ve found that people are sometimes hesitant to share the news that rates of childhood sexual abuse have significantly decreased since we first began measuring them in the early ’90s.

One woman told me, “People already have trouble believing it’s as bad as it is.” But, I don’t think this justifies misleading the public by withholding information from them.

As best we can know them, we should share the facts. And since I believe and others have shown that boosting the public’s morale helps rather than hinders civil rights movements, if we have good news to share- we should be sharing it.

In his book, The Tipping Point, Malcom Gladwell reminds us what is most effective when attempting to change harmful social norms: 1. Boost morale 2. Take a firmer stance on lower level offenses.

He cites the strategies that led to significant decreases in crime rates in New York City beginning in the mid 1990s, as an example.

I copied and pasted the rest of the information in this post directly from the source. David Finklehor and The Crimes Against Children Research Center are considered long standing experts in the field. To read or download the entire PDF go to: http://www.unh.edu/ccrc/index.html

I welcome your comments and/or questions.


Yours in advocacy and friendship,



There is currently no consensus in the child maltreatment field  about why sexual abuse and physical abuse substantiations have  declined so considerably over the longer term, although a recent article and book suggest some possible factors (Finkelhor & Jones,  2006; Finkelhor, 2008).  The  period  when  sexual  and physical abuse started the dramatic downward trend was marked by sustained economic improvement, increases in the numbers of law  enforcement  and  child  protection  personnel,  more  aggressive  prosecution and incarceration policies, growing public awareness  about the problems,  and  the  dissemination  of  new  treatment  options for family and mental health problems, including new  psychiatric medication.  While some have suggested community  notification laws as a possible explanatory factor, the passage and  implementation of these laws actually occurred well after the  sexual abuse decline was underway.

There is no obvious reason why neglect trends have differed so  sharply from those of sexual and physical abuse (Jones, Finkelhor  & Halter, 2006). One possibility is that neglect has not declined  because it has not been the subject of the same level of policy  attention and public awareness as sexual and physical abuse.
Another possibility is that increased education and recent state  and professional initiatives about neglect, including the identification of new forms of neglect like drug affected newborns, has  masked a decline in other conventional types of neglect.     The fact that overall maltreatment rates did not worsen in the  face of economic deterioration is a surprise to many observers.

It is unfortunate that information about the trends in child maltreatment are not better publicized and more widely known.   The long‐term decline in sexual and physical abuse  may have  important implications for public policy. These trends deserve  more discussion, analysis and research.