Sexual abuses of minors, an historical phenomenon which can be found in every culture and in every society, has relatively recently become the object of systematic study. This is due to the changed sensibility of public opinion on a topic that in the past was considered a taboo. Even today, however, the available statistics gathered by various national and international organizations (WHO, UNICEF, INTERPOL, EUROPOL, etc.) do not represent the true extent of the phenomenon which is often underestimated, primarily because many cases of sexual abuse of minors are not reported. In fact, 1 out of 3 tell no one (THORN, 2017).
Research conducted by UNICEF in 30 countries confirms this fact. A small percentage of victims said that they asked for help. Behind this reluctance could be the fear of vendetta, feelings of guilt, shame, confusion, distrust in institutions, cultural and social conditioning, but also misinformation regarding the services and structures that can help. The one thing that is certain is that millions of children in the world are victims of exploitation and sexual abuse.
In 2017, the WHO estimated that up to 1 billion minors between the ages of 2 and 17 years of age have endured violence either physical, emotional, or sexual. Sexual abuse (from groping to rape), according to some UNICEF estimates from 2014, affected over 120 million children, representing the highest number of victims. In 2017, the same UN organization reported that in 38 low and middle income countries, almost 17 million adult women admitted having a forced sexual relationship during their childhood.
Who commits the abuse?
- On the global level, it has emerged that such violence (whether physical, sexual or emotional) is committed mostly by parents, relatives, spouses of child brides, or teachers. In addition, according to UNICEF data from 2017 regarding 28 countries, out of 10 adolescents who have reported forced sexual relations, 9 revealed that they were victims of a person they know or was close to the family.
- The home is not the only theater of violence. Others, such as schools and the world of sports are also environments in which episodes of sexual abuse can occur. Research done by the UK’s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in 2011 reported that 29% of the children interviewed reported that they had experienced sexual harassment (physical and verbal) in the sporting centers they frequented.
Scope of the Child Abuse Issue
- Children are suffering from a hidden epidemic of child abuse and neglect. It’s a widespread war against our children that we have the power to stop, and understanding the issue is the first step. Just how bad is the issue of child abuse in the United States?
- Every year more than 6 million referrals are made to child protection agencies involving more than 6.6 million children (a referral can include multiple children).
- The United States has one of the worst records among industrialized nations– losing on average between four and seven children every day to child abuse and neglect.
Yearly, referrals to state child protective services involve 6.6 million children, and around 3.2 million of those children are subject to an investigated report.
Child Abuse Fatalities
We must learn to recognize early signs of abuse in order to help save the 5 children that die every day from child abuse and neglect.
In 2014, state agencies identified an estimated 1,580 children who died as a result of abuse and neglect — between four and five children a day. 2 However, studies also indicate significant under counting of child maltreatment fatalities by state agencies — by 50% or more. 10
That’s roughly ¼ of your child’s elementary school class.
More than 70% of the children who died as a result of child abuse or neglect were two years of age or younger. More than 80% were not yet old enough for kindergarten. 3
Around 80% of child maltreatment fatalities involve at least one parent as perpetrator.