Child Sexual Abuse – An Attorney’s Viewpoint
11/08/2012 // West Palm Beach, FL, USA // Justice News Flash: Featured Column // Susan B. Ramsey // (press release)
Susan B. Ramsey Reports: The recent media attention surrounding the Penn State – Sandusky trial and other revelations concerning child sexual abuse matters require discussion, as there are many ramifications for survivors, families of survivors and the people who care about them. According to the Crimes against Children Research Center located at the University of New Hampshire. There are many estimates concerning the number of children who are victims of sexual abuse.
• One U.S. governmental source counted more than 78,000 child victims of sexual abuse in just 2003. That is a rate of 1.2 per 1,000 American children.
• The 2001 National Crime Victimization Survey which only covers ages 12 through 17 estimates that 1.9 per 1,000 children are rapes or sexually assaulted.
• National Surveys of Adults find that 9 to 28% of women say they have experienced some type of sexual abuse or assault in childhood.
Of course these estimates and others that are available nationwide have limitations based on many issues, primarily that these incidents are often not reported to any law enforcement or protection agency. .
Who are the victims of child sexual abuse?
According to the Crimes Against Children Research Center, it is difficult to create a profile of children who will be sexually abused. It is possible to describe characteristics that are more common among victims.
(a) Demographics and gender. It is fairly well known that many more girls than boys are victims of sexual abuse. This statistic has been confirmed regardless of the information that has been used. Across different types of research, all reliable studies conclude that girls experience sexual abuse more than boys.
(b) Age. There is some discrepancy in the available data about whether teenagers are at higher risks or whether the risk is more uniformly distributed. One national study that uses information, agencies found that 14% of sexual assault victims are ages 0 to 5, 20% are ages 6 to 11, 33% are ages 12 to 17.
Who are the perpetrators of child sexual abuse?
Just as it is difficult to create a simple profile of who will become victims of sexual abuse, it is equally difficult to create a profile of who will perpetrate sexual crimes against minors.
(a) Gender. The perpetrators of sexual abuse are overwhelmingly males. Studies using law enforcement as well as victims self report data found that more than 90% of the perpetrators of sexual offenses against minors were male.
(b) Age. Juveniles themselves commit a considerable proportion of sexual offenses against children with estimates indicating about one-third, ranging from 29 to 41% are juveniles. Among adult perpetrators, young adults under the age of 30 are over represented.
(c) Relationship to the victim. Acquaintances and family members commit most sexual abuse and assault. Several studies agree that approximately half of all the offenders are acquaintances. The studies differ about the percentages who are family members. The range going from 14 to 47%. A good approximation is that the family members constitute a quarter to a third of the offenders. Strangers make up the small group of perpetrators ranging from 7 to 25%.
Resources for survivors of child sexual assault and abuse.
There are many national and local organizations which provide resources for adult survivors of sexual abuse as well as family members or parents of children who have been sexually abused.
(a) RAINN – Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network has a website (http://www.rainn.org) and a hotline number of 1-800-656-HOPE. The website provides much information about where to get help, how to get additional information and a newsroom which provides help information about recent cases in the media.
(b) ASCA – Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse is an international self help support group designed specifically for adult’s survivors of neglect, physical, sexual and/or emotional abuse. This program offers community based self help support groups; web based self help support groups, survivor to thriver work box. It has a website (http://www.ascasupport.org).
1. Crimes Against Children Research Center; Childhood Sexual Abuse Fact sheet; Emily M. Douglas and David Finkelhor, May 2005.
2. United States Administration for Children and Families, Child Maltreatment 2003: Reports from the States to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data Systems, National Statistics on Child Abuse and Neglect 2005.
3. Sedlak, A.J. and D.D. Broadhurt, Executive Summary of the Third National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect 1996, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect: Washington DC,
4. National Incident Based Reporting System, Statistics Calculated by Staff at the Crimes Against Children Research Center 2001,
5. Finkelhor, D.Hammer, and A.J. Sedlak, Sexually Assaulted Children: National Estimate in Characteristics in the Juvenile Justice Bulletin, In Press Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Washington DC,
6. World Health Organization, Comparative Risk Assessment; Child Sexual Abuse 2001, Who Collaborating Center for Evidence and Health Policy and Mental Health, Sydney, Australia
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