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John J. Wilson, Acting Administrator January 2001

Crimes against Children The Decline in Child Sexual Abuse Cases

Lisa Jones and David Finkelhor



Substantiated Sexual Abuse

Reports of Child Sexual Abuse

Decline in Child Sexual Abuse Greater Than Decline in Physical Abuse or Neglect

Possible Reasons for the Decline



For Further Information



This Bulletin was prepared under grant number 98JNFX0012 from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice.

Points of view or opinions expressed in this document are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of OJJDP or the U.S. Department of Justice.
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention is a component of the Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, and the Office for Victims of Crime.

From the Administrator

While recent reductions in juvenile crime—offenses by youth—have generated some media coverage, the decline in child sexual abuse— offenses against youth—has received far less attention. Yet, we know that the sexual exploitation of children can have significant impact on its victims and even contribute to an intergenerational cycle of violence and abuse.

Child protective services agencies report that the increases in child sexual abuse that marked the 1980s were followed by a protracted period of substantial declines in the 1990s. From 1992 to 1998, for example, substantiated cases of child sexual abuse decreased by nearly a third.

A critical, and largely unexamined, question is why? Using data from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System and other sources, this Bulletin describes declines in both reported and substantiated child sexual abuse from the early 1990s and identifies possible factors influencing those declines. The policy implications suggested by the decrease in child sexual abuse are also explored.

Further research is needed to better understand the reasons why child sexual abuse has declined. This Bulletin, however, will enhance our knowledge of this noteworthy trend and its potential causes and effects.

John J. Wilson
Acting Administrator



This Bulletin was prepared by Lisa M. Jones, Ph.D., Research Fellow, Crimes against Children Research Center, University of New Hampshire; and David Finkelhor, Ph.D., Professor of Sociology, and Director, Crimes against Children Research Center, University of New Hampshire.

NCJ 184741

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