Sexual abuse and assault in a large national sample of children and adolescents.

Author(s): 
Gewirtz-Meydan, A., & Finkelhor, D. (2020)
Source: 
Child Maltreatment, 25(2), 203 -214
Type of Profession:
Keywords:
Summary: 

The present study sought to examine features of sexual abuse cases among a U.S. nationally representative sample of 13,052 children and adolescents, ages 0–17 years. Results indicate most offenses are at the hands of other juveniles (76.7% for males and 70.1% for females), primarily acquaintances, and occurring more frequently for adolescents aged 14–17. Whereas girls are mostly abused by males (88.4%), boys are abused by both males (45.6%) and females (54.4%).

Expanded Abstract: 

Child sexual abuse (CSA) is a worldwide health problem with long-term outcomes on survivors’ mental, psychological, physical, and sexual health. While researchers have focused extensively on estimating the prevalence of CSA (Barth, Bermetz, Heim, Trelle, & Tonia, 2013; Pereda, Guilera, Forns, & Gomez-Benito, 2009; Singh, Parsekar, & Nair, 2014; Stoltenborgh, Van Ijzendoorn, Euser, & Bakermans-Kranenburg, 2011; Vogeltanz et al., 1999) and assessing the long- and short-term consequences of the abuse on the survivor (Beitchman et al., 2002; Perez-Fuentes et al., 2013), less attention has been given to characterizing the diversity of the problem. One element to the diversity is the mixture of adult-on-child episodes that comfortably fit into the term “sexual abuse” and child-on-child episodes that may not. To stress that CSA in the present study includes offenses conducted by juvenile/peer offenders, the word “assault” is added to the term CSA (CSAA).

The present study sought to examine features of sexual abuse cases among a U.S. nationally representative sample of 13,052 children and adolescents, ages 0–17 years. The National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence was collected in three different years (2008, 2011, and 2014) via telephone interviews. Information about sexual abuse and assault was obtained from youth themselves (ages 10–17) or caregivers (for children ages 0–9) using the Juvenile Victimization Questionnaire.

Results indicate most offenses are at the hands of other juveniles (76.7% for males and 70.1% for females), primarily acquaintances, and occurring more frequently for adolescents aged 14–17. Whereas girls are mostly abused by males (88.4%), boys are abused by both males (45.6%) and females (54.4%). In 15% of cases, penetration is part of the abuse. Victims report being very afraid in 37.5% of episodes but not at all afraid in 19.8%. Among 10- to 17-year-olds, 66.3% of episodes are not reported to parents or any adult. Police reports occur for 19.1% of all cases. The results in the present study indicate that children and youth are exposed to sexual abuse and assault in varied ways, which require moving beyond conventional stereotypes of the problem.

Volume/Issue: