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Sexual Abuse and Assault in a Large National Sample of Children and Adolescents

NCJ Number
Child Maltreatment Volume: 25 Issue: 2 Dated: 2020 Pages: 203-214
Aleret Gewirtz-Meydan; David Finkelhor
Date Published
12 pages
This study examined the 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 percent for males and 70.1 percent for females), primarily acquaintances, and occurring more frequently for adolescents aged 14–17. Whereas, girls were mostly abused by males (88.4 percent), boys were abused by both males (45.6 percent) and females (54.4 percent). In 15 percent of cases, penetration was part of the abuse. Victims reported being very afraid in 37.5 percent of episodes, but not at all afraid in 19.8 percent. Among 10- to 17-year-olds, 66.3 percent of episodes were not reported to parents or any adult. Police reports occurred for 19.1 percent 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. (publisher abstract modified)