Here are some facts and statistics on sexual abuse that will give you a better understanding of the nature of the problem.

Prevalence of Child Molestation: How often sexual abuse occurs

Accurate prevalence numbers can be difficult to put a finger on, and vary from study to study, yet it’s safe to say this is a widespread human issue that will affect many children. Two large scale and widely cited studies revealed that between 28% (Gagnon, 1965) and 33% (Landis, 1956) of children will have a sexual encounter with an adult prior to the age of 13. Though these studies are relatively dated, they illustrate the widespread scope of this issue. Nothing about the human nature driving such numbers has changed in the last 50 years. A more recent meta-analysis of more than 50 separate studies found prevalence rates ranging from 5% to 71%, with a mean average of 14% for boys and 27% for girls. (Rind, Tromovitch & Bauserman, 1998) Here are some other facts and statistics related to prevalence:

Fact: True numbers are hard to come by, because even in anonymous surveys, people tend to grossly under-report socially stigmatizing or embarrassing behavior/experiences. Thus, actual prevalence is frequently understated by a factor of up to 3. (Hagerman, 2008; Barringer, 1993; Hallinan, 2009)

Fact: Some recent studies suggest a decline in prevalence rates, though many organizations remain skeptical of this. While tougher penalties and community awareness may have resulted in a small decline (and this is questionable), it’s also likely that these same tactics have merely discouraged reporting, leading to a false drop in the statistics.

Fact: One study showed 13% rates of incest among a community sample. (Finkelhor, 1981)

In one study, one-fourth of the sample reported that their incest experiences occurred with both parents. (Symonds, Mendoza & Harrell, 1981)