Critic: News Media Often Exaggerate Child Sex Abuse Data


With child sexual abuse in the news, journalists often use an incorrect figure that one in four girls and one in six boys might be sexually abused by the age of 18, says Richard Wexler of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform writes for Wexler tracked down the source of the data, which are used in many news stories. It is the “Adverse Childhood Experiences Study,” done in California in the 1990s.

Under the study’s definition, a “goodnight kiss” between two teenagers would be defined as sexual abuse, which the survey extends to any touching of the body in a sexual way, Wexler says. An assistant principal in Florida called in a report, and sheriff's deputies investigated, after a 12-year-old girl kissed a 12-year-old boy during gym class. The assistant principal called it “a possible sex crime.” Wexler says, “One can only hope the next big ‘study’ doesn't further broaden the definition of abuse to include cases like that.”

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