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Prevalence: 1 in 10

Estimating a Child Sexual Abuse Prevalence Rate for Practitioners:
A Review of Child Sexual Abuse Prevalence Studies

Released: August, 2013

Click here to read the full study.

Catherine Townsend
Grants, Research & National Strategy Manager
Darkness to Light

Contributing Author
Alyssa A. Rheingold, Ph.D.
Associate Professor & Director of Clinical Operations
The National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Medical University of South Carolina


Child sexual abuse prevention organizations and practitioners that interact with the public desire a current child sexual abuse prevalence statistic. In 2013, there is not one single definitive study or meta-analysis U.S. practitioners can point to as the basis for a current child sexual abuse prevalence statistic.

This white paper is intended to provide a basis for a range of credible child sexual abuse prevalence rates. U.S. studies that collected child sexual abuse prevalence rate data since 1992 were identified and reviewed. Criteria were established for the age of data, methodology and definition of child sexual abuse. Of the 16 identified studies, six met the criteria established for relevance to practitioners. A range of child sexual abuse prevalence rates has been derived from these studies.

These six studies suggest an overall full-childhood sexual abuse prevalence rate of 7.5% – 11.7%*. These studies suggest the child sexual abuse prevalence rate for girls is 10.7% to 17.4%* and the rate for boys is 3.8% to 4.6%*.

Key Findings

  • “About 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused before they turn 18 *,+”
  • “About 1 in 7 girls and 1 in 25 boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18*”
  • “It is estimated that 7-12% of children are sexually abused*”
  • “As many as 400,000 babies born in the U.S. this year will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday unless we do something to stop it*,+ >”

*Contact abuse only
+The average of the upper and lower limits of the prevalence statistic range is 9.6%. This average has been rounded to 10%.
>Just over four million babies are born in the U.S. annually. Assuming that child sexual abuse rates remain constant over the next 17 years, about 400,000 babies born this year (10% of all babies born) will become victims of sexual abuse before they turn 18.

Click here to read the full study.