Recent reports show that the rates of child sexual abuse have been steadily decreasing over the past two decades. This may seem surprising as highly publicized stories of child sexual abuse seem to be everywhere, from Jerry Sandusky to the Catholic Church covering up predatory priests to allegations of abuse against teachers (and former teachers) across the country. What is not surprising is that the hard work and dedication of advocates throughout the country is paying off. The prevention presentations, community education, policy reform, and ongoing efforts are translating into measurable change on a national scale. As the New York Times reports:
Overall cases of child sexual abuse fell more than 60 percent from 1992 to 2010, according to David Finkelhor, a leading expert on sexual abuse who, with a colleague, Lisa Jones, has tracked the trend. The evidence for this decline comes from a variety of indicators, including national surveys of child abuse and crime victimization, crime statistics compiled by the F.B.I., 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.
A cultural shift in the willingness of children to speak about abuse and report it to parents, teachers, and authorities also seems to be at play:
At the same time, the willingness of children to report sexual abuse has increased. In a 2008 survey, Dr. Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, found that in 50 percent of sexual abuse cases, the child’s victimization had been reported to an authority, compared with 25 percent in 1992.
Thank you to all of the advocates who have worked to ensure the safety and wellbeing of young people in our communities!