Child abuse has become an increasing problem in the United States. The subject of child abuse is also very controversial, for several reasons. One is that the definition of child abuse is different for each individual. Now, the government has outlined laws regarding child abuse, but proof of neglect or wrongdoing is necessary. Another factor is that information on child abuse is almost always biased, by personal involvement or beliefs. But the facts still remain. Recent studies show that while the statistics of most other forms of violent crime are dramatically decreasing, reports of child abuse and neglect have risen since 1993 (1).
Eighty percent of prisoners in the United States were abused as children or raised in violent homes (2). Six in 10 women in state prisons report having experienced physical or sexual abuse in the past; for many, the abuse occurred before age 18 (3). Nearly 25% of child victimizers were age 40 or older, but about 10% of the inmates with adult victims fell in that age range. Convicted rape and sexual assault offenders serving time in State prisons report that two-thirds of their victims were under the age of 18, and 58% of those said their victims were aged 12 or younger (4).
1 in 3 girls and 1 in 7 boys under the age of 18 are sexually abused. Sexual abuse has become a rising problem today. In the United States alone, an average of 5.5 out of 10,000 children enrolled in daycare are sexually abused, and an average of 8.9 of these statistics are abused in the home (5). Contrary to popular belief, males are not the only perpetrators in sex abuse cases. Approximately 60 % of the male survivors report at least one of their perpetrators to be female (6). Typical child abusers have a lot of the same characteristics, such as low self-esteem, unemployment, unrealistic expectations of self and of children, and troubled childhoods themselves.
Between 3.3 and 10 million children are exposed to domestic violence each year. Forty-five to seventy percent of these children are physically abused themselves (9). Of the reported cases of child abuse in 2003, 18.9% of these were physical. The youngest children account for the greatest percentage of victims (11). Neglect represents the most common type of reported and substantiated form of maltreatment. In 1996, 25 states provided the following breakdown for reported cases: 62% involved neglect, 25% physical abuse, 7% sexual abuse, 3% emotional maltreatment and 4% other.
Neglect of a child includes lacking the provision of physical, mental, emotional, and/or educational needs. Physical neglect is the most frequently occurring type of neglect. This is the withholding of food, water, shelter, or other biological needs of a child. It accounts for 51% of neglect cases (8). Educational neglect holds second place at 29% of all cases reported. Last, but not least, is emotional neglect, at 20%.
There are also statistics involving ethnicity and child abuse. It seems that some ethnic groups are more likely to experience child abuse than others, however it is not an indication of who is at risk. For example, half of all victims were Caucasian (53.6%), one-quarter (25.5%) were African-American, and one-tenth (11.5%) were Hispanic. Regardless, these statistics are not an accurate implication of the occurrence of child abuse within racial boundaries, because these are based only on reports that have been documented.
Child abuse reports have maintained a steady growth for the past ten years, with the total number of reports nationwide increasing 45% since 1987. Seven percent of all children that go back to the home in which they were abused, are abused again. The National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) reported an estimated 1,400 child fatalities in 2002 (7). However, it is estimated that 50 percent or more deaths caused by neglect and abuse are not even recorded. Children that have been abused are 50 percent more likely to commit suicide than those who have never encountered this kind of trauma (10).
Child Abuse Statistics Sources: