After years of revelations about sexual predators lurking in some of our most high-profile institutions, including accusations against Elmo's puppeteer, parents and caregivers say they're living in a state of high alert, suspicious of even the most innocuous-seeming encounters, worried in their own homes, where the Internet has the power to deliver predators to their children's bedrooms, the Boston Globe reports. The growing unease about sex abuse is reflected in surveys taken four years apart by MassKids, a child advocacy organization. In 2003, fewer than half of Massachusetts residents they would be willing to participate in training to learn about child sexual abuse and how to prevent it. By 2007, two-thirds said they would be willing.
Parental anxiety seems to be on the rise even as the rate of child sexual abuse is falling, according to a large-scale analysis by the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire. Data from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System showed that the rate of substantiated child sexual abuse dropped 62 percent between 1992 and 2010, from 150,000 cases to 63,000, said center director David Finkelhor. The trend was confirmed by data from six other sources. A combination of factors has led to the decline, including more aggressive law enforcement; prevention education; public awareness; and cultural changes such as the empowerment of women.