Though the Jerry Sandusky case, the ongoing scandal involving pedophile priests, and alleged sexual abuse at the Horace Mann prep school in the Bronx continue to make major headlines, crime statistics compiled by the FBI and other agencies show a decline in the overall rate of child sexual abuse. The New York Times reports:
From 1990 to 2010, for example, substantiated cases of sexual abuse dropped from 23 per 10,000 children under 18 to 8.6 per 10,000, a 62 percent decrease, with a 3 percent drop from 2009 to 2010, according to the researchers’ analysis of government data. The Minnesota Student Survey charted a 29 percent decline in reports of sexual abuse by an adult who was not a family member from 1992 to 2010 and a 28 percent drop in reports of sexual abuse by a family member. The majority of sexual abuse cases involve family members or acquaintances rather than strangers, studies have found.
At the same time, the willingness of children to report sexual abuse has increased. In a 2008 survey, Dr. Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, found that in 50 percent of sexual abuse cases, the child’s victimization had been reported to an authority, compared with 25 percent in 1992.
The precise reasons for the declining rates are not clear. Dr. Finkelhor noted that most types of crime have plummeted over the last 20 years. But at least some of the decline, he believes, has resulted from greater public awareness, stepped-up prevention efforts, better training and education, specialized policing, the presence in many cities of child advocacy centers that offer a coordinated response to abuse, and the deterrence afforded by the prosecutions of offenders.