General Question

Strauss's avatar

Is the incidence of sexual child abuse on the rise, or is it just that a greater percentage are being reported?

Asked by Strauss (20551points) July 14th, 2010

A young girl I know of recently came out and shared with her family the fact that she had been sexually molested in the past. She also shared it with a close (girl) friend, and it turns out that the friend had had a similar experience in the past. The victim’s mom, and also the friend’s mom were each victims of sexual abuse as children.

I don’t recall hearing about such experiences in the past, say 30–40 years ago, and I wonder if the pattern of behavior is on the rise, or are children just being encouraged to report it.

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17 Answers

JLeslie's avatar

I think people just talk about it more now, I don’t think it is on the rise. Back about 25 years ago there were a lot of reports that wound up to be false, false memory. Some of that still happens, but for the most part I believe what is reported is true.

the100thmonkey's avatar

Sounds like synchronicity to me.

There are other ways of looking at the issue – abuse leads to abuse, for example, or the later creation of conditions where abuse can happen.

JLeslie's avatar

There might be more reported cases, but our population is bigger, so you have to look at the percent to the total population.

josie's avatar

Children, because they are relatively helpless, are targets of abuse. It has always been true.

rebbel's avatar

@the100thmonkey “abuse leads to abuse, for example,...”
Can i write: “abuse can lead to abuse.”?

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

The frequency of child sexual abuse has probably not increased much if at all.

The reporting of child or adolescent sexual abuse has increased because:

The police have been trained to take each report seriously and investigate much more carefully than then did decades ago.

The courts are much less likely to permit the accused to blame the victim.

Families are much less likely to force the victim to keep things quiet to protect the family’s social standing or to defend the family member who is the perpetrator.

These are all healthy changes and each of them still needs improvement.

Society is not more accepting of the crime and much more supportive of reports and claims made by actual victims.

There may have been an increase in false allegations by some victims because they see such charges as a way to achieve some other goal.
They typically admit that the charges are false when they see that they are not getting what they expected and they see the harm their false accusations have caused.
Those who lie about sexual abuse tend to be vague on the details and when questioned again add and forget details from previous interviews.

Real victims are less likely to be reporting things to achieve some other kind of gain or benefit. They are often concerned about other potential victims.

meagan's avatar

I’m sure it was something people “swept under the rug”. There were perverts 50 years ago, and there are just as many today.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

But do you think there were just as many perverts 50 years ago as there are today?

I say no, but 2000–4000 years ago, it was quite common to sell young daughters into prostitution and man/boy sex was common in both eastern and western continents. I don’t think it was considered as a perversion either.

Someone please correct me.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies Under Jewish Law a man was prohibited from even uncovering the nakedness of his daughters or other female blood relatives other than his wife and at that there were restrictions on when that could occur as well.

Were there perverts among them? Of course, just as there are some now.
Such conduct was not accepted or tolerated and the punishments for violating these laws were severe.

Sex between a man and another or between a man and a boy were also forbidden.

In modern times, Most Jewish communities acknowledge homosexuality as a fact and do not exclude them from religious life.

Some ultra Orthodox have a don’t ask, don’t tell approach that still allow a homosexual to be a full part of religious life.
They still have a long way to go towards a more realistic viewpoint, such as acknowledging the the Creator know the homosexuals were part of the community of man.

At this point I am not getting into the different roles and responsibilities and rights between men and women, which is itself a topic for another question.

Muslim Law was different and I do not know it well enough to comment on their practices.

Of course there were other ancient religions will all kinds of practice. I do not know the details wel enough to discuss them.

syzygy2600's avatar

I think it’s just better reported now, which is the one upside of the satanic ritual abuse panic of the 80’s/early 90’s.

rooeytoo's avatar

I agree with the more awareness theory. The downside of it is that more mothers are apparently afraid to send their young sons into the mens room alone so they bring them into the ladies room with them. Nothing like sitting on the toilet only to glance down and see a boy’s head peering up from under the partition!

I often wonder do men take their daughters into the mens room because they are afraid to send them into the ladies room alone? Or is it only men who are the feared predators and girls are safe among the women?


Both. Child sexual abuse has always existed, but I really believe that within the last 40 years it has increased significantly, due to a breakdown of moral values and standards. And because there is greater awareness of it these days, that too has had an effect on the numbers being reported.

JLeslie's avatar

@MRSHINYSHOES I just have a hard time believing it has to do with moral values. Sexually abusing a child is pathological in my book. You can’t compare it to sex before marriage. It is an abusive violent act. What do you specifically mean by moral values?

Pandora's avatar

I think for many years women or men did not report these things because they would be seen as perpertrators of vicious lies that would shame their family. Even when women were raped it was seen as their fault. Till today it is still seen that way. She wore a short skirt, she wore make up, her cleavage was showing.
There are more programs to help people report stuff today and to empower them. But for every accusation one makes , they know they will have to go thought a gauntlet of people to speak the truth.
I bet the percentage is the same, only there are more people in the world today.

In Sunday school, I was taught the sins of the father passes to the son. I thought that was mean until I was old enough to understand what it meant.
Which is a parents crimes, abuse, drugs, alcohol are often passed down to the next generation and it continues to be passed down until someone stops this behavior.
So what, I’m saying is that most of this behavior is usually something passed down through generations.
Monsters have always existed and they will always continue to exist. And it only gets easier every time people live in denial.

augustlan's avatar

I’m 42 years old, and was sexually abused for many years as a child. At that time, my entire family knew and it was all kept very hush-hush. No reporting it to the police or anything, it was very much a ‘family matter’. As I grew up, I became very open about my experiences and I would estimate that 4 out of 5 people I told had either also been abused or knew someone who had. I don’t think the incidence is rising, but the openness has, thank God.

the100thmonkey's avatar

@rebbel : yes – that was what I intended.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

” There may have been an increase in false allegations by some victims because they see such charges as a way to achieve some other goal.” Many I believe don’t want to allude to that fact because we so want to believe the accuse to be some vile pervert and want to have so much sympathy for the alleged victim. What as @Dr_Lawrence said (and we sometimes bump heads) has so much iron in it. I once read (__and no I could not find the article again_) that a group of kids in a Texas school got together and concocted a story against a teacher because he gave them failing grades (which was the right grade because they were slacking) that he sexually abused them. Some children are quick studies, they know what nuclear option they can use that will make an adult go from calm to spastic in .05 par sec. They know that before the adults even begin to search the truth they will vilify the accused adult.

Partly a case on point ” I say no, but 2000–4000 years ago, it was quite common to sell young daughters into prostitution and man/boy sex was common in both eastern and western continents. I don’t think it was considered as a perversion either.” a la @RealEyesRealizeRealLies we want to filter things through Western Societies eyes or more pointy American eyes. What we see as some perversion in other parts of the world is quite normal. We see arranged marriages of 30somthing men with young girls as perversion and Gay unions as a right (not making any judgment debates just stating the fact) however those who are haled as pioneers for their Gay union stance in America would be under the penalty of death in some nations because the way they live their life is seen as perversion. Perversion or the lack of it is a lot of the society one is at, at the time.

I think the amount of occurrences is up from decades ago but not as much as the media plays it up to be.

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