Despite Sensational Cases, Child Sex Abuse Reports Decline in U.S.


Despite news headlines about sensational cases, the rates of child sexual abuse in the U.S. have been decreasing steadily over the last two decades by several critical measures, the New York Times reports. Overall cases of child sexual abuse fell more than 60 percent from 1992 to 2010, says David Finkelhor of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, who with Lisa Jones has tracked the trend. The evidence comes from a variety of indicators, including national surveys of child abuse and crime victimization, FBI crime statistics, 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, 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, Finkelhor and Jones say. The Minnesota Student Survey charted a 29 percent decline in reports of sex abuse by an adult who was not a family member from 1992 to 2010 and a 28 percent drop in reports of abuse by a family member. The willingness of children to report sexual abuse has increased. Finkelhor also cites greater public awareness, stepped-up prevention efforts, better training and education, specialized policing, child advocacy centers that offer a coordinated response to abuse, and the deterrence caused by the prosecution of offenders.

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