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.