Sunday, June 18, 2017

Why The Statistic Matters: Part Two, Child Sexual Abuse

This is a miniseries about why the statistics on this site, and the upcoming website, should matter to you, not only in your everyday life, but in preventing child sexual abuse... before it can happen.

Statistic 1: Most Abusers Are Those Known And Trusted

To be specific, 90-93% of child sexual abuse is committed by those known and trusted by the victim. This one is probably the single most important statistic to the prevention of child sexual abuse: The common myth is that it is strangers you need to worry about, and teaching stranger danger is rampant. Well, I grew up in that era of stranger danger. It did not protect me from the three times I was sexually abused by those I knew and trusted.

This single statistic means also that mandatory reporting laws will always impede the prevention of abuse, because it means that those who may be in need of mental health help do not get that help. Why? Because most abusers are those known and trusted, you will not report your son to the police for fondling a younger sibling. You will not want to ruin the rest of his life. The same holds true for the husband, the uncle, the teacher, the babysitter, etc.

Statistic 2: Prevalence Of Sexual Abuse

The prevalence of child sexual abuse has been reported in a number of ways. Studies indicate that the victim-reported abuse on surveys is around 8% for boys, and 19% for girls. Estimates that attempt to account for underreporting put abuse at one in six boys, and one in four girls. This statistic is important for obvious reasons. It teaches us that underreporting is real, and that the true prevalence of child sexual abuse in any society will likely never be known. It teaches us that boys are victims of sexual abuse, and that they report less due to a myriad of complex sociological factors.

But let us practically apply that statistic, just to the United States:

According to this source, there are 73.8 million children in the United States, and the known victim-reported prevalence (8%, 19%) translates to roughly 3,011,040 boys and 6,870,780 girls, or 9,881,820 children. The estimates that attempt to account for underreporting (1:6, 1:4) translate to 6,273,000 boys and 9,040,500 girls, or 15,313,500 children. In other words, our best data and estimates indicate that 13.39-20.75% of children are sexually abused (which is a big deal).

Most of all, the prevalence of child sexual abuse shows us that too many children are affected by this epidemic already for us to be reacting to abuse after it happens. After abuse happens is clearly not good enough.

Statistic 3: Most Abuse Happens In A Residence, One-On-One

The circumstances of abuse can be shocking to some: 77% of child sexual abuse is done in a residence, and 81% of child sexual abuse occurs in a one-on-one situation. This is vitally important for prevention and for policymakers, because it means that the majority of abuse does not happen in parks, schools, playgrounds, libraries, movie theaters, or businesses. Restricting people from any of these places does nothing to stop sexual abuse, because not only does abuse not happen in these places, abuse is more often perpetrated not by strangers, but by someone the child knows.

Statistic 4: False Allegations Are Extremely Rare

How rare, you ask? Think 4-8%, and typically those false reports are allegations originating with an adult in the child's live, not the child themselves. What this clearly demonstrates is that children can be trusted to tell the truth about being sexually abused. If a child has told you they were abused, you must treat it as a fact and respond accordingly by going to a therapist with expertise in sexual abuse victims, a child advocacy center, Child Protective Services, or the police. While no doubt, given statistic number one, you know and trust the abuser, the fact of the matter is that they need treatment and help, and they will not get that without the police being at least notified. This statistic is obvious: Believe a child's allegation of sexual abuse.

Wrapping Up

While there are many more statistics in child sexual abuse that matter a great deal, these four statistics and why they matter form the core of what the average person absolutely must know about child sexual abuse. By being aware of not just the fact and figure, but why that figure is important, you can become involved in preventing child sexual abuse... before it can happen.

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