Is child sexual abuse declining? Evidence from a population-based survey of men and women in Australia

Dunne, Michael P., Purdie, David M., Cook, Michelle D., Boyle, Frances M., & Najman, Jackob M. (2003) Is child sexual abuse declining? Evidence from a population-based survey of men and women in Australia. Child Abuse & Neglect, 27(2), pp. 141-152.

View at publisher


Objective: Substantiated cases of child sexual abuse (CSA) in the United States have declined significantly over the past decade. This may, or may not, reflect change in the underlying rate in the general population. This study examines age-cohort differences in the prevalence of self-reported CSA experiences of men and women aged 18–59 years in a community-based sample from a comparable western nation. Method: In April 2000, we completed a cross-sectional, telephone-based survey of a randomly selected national sample of men and women in Australia. Volunteers (876 males, 908 females) answered a range of questions about health status and sexuality, including unwanted sexual experiences before the age of 16 years. Of selected adults with publicly-listed telephone numbers, 61% agreed to participate. There were few differences between the volunteers and the Australian population on demographic variables and health indicators. Results: Non-penetrative CSA was twice as common among women (33.6%) than men (15.9%). Approximately 12% of women and 4% of men reported unwanted penetrative experiences. CSA was reported significantly less often by younger males, with a linear decline from the oldest to youngest men. Among all females who had intercourse before age 16, older women were much more likely than younger women to say they were an unwilling partner on the first occasion. If first intercourse occurred at age 16 or later, there were no age-cohort differences in risk of first-time abuse. Self-reported "openness" and "comfort" during the telephone interviews was not systematically related to prevalence of CSA. Conclusion: These population-based findings provide evidence of a decline in the underlying rate of CSA in Australia. Although every measure of CSA inevitably is flawed to some extent, these trends in self-report complement official statistics that show substantial decline in recent years.

Impact and interest:

76 citations in Scopus
62 citations in Web of Science®
Search Google Scholar™

Citation counts are sourced monthly from Scopus and Web of Science® citation databases.

These databases contain citations from different subsets of available publications and different time periods and thus the citation count from each is usually different. Some works are not in either database and no count is displayed. Scopus includes citations from articles published in 1996 onwards, and Web of Science® generally from 1980 onwards.

Citations counts from the Google Scholar™ indexing service can be viewed at the linked Google Scholar™ search.

ID Code: 10036
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Additional Information: For more information, please refer to the journal's website (see hypertext link) or contact the author.
Keywords: Child sexual abuse, Prevalence, Change over time, Australia
DOI: 10.1016/S0145-2134(02)00539-2
ISSN: ISBN: 01452134
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > PUBLIC HEALTH AND HEALTH SERVICES (111700) > Epidemiology (111706)
Divisions: Past > Research Centres > Centre for Health Research
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2003 Elsevier
Deposited On: 09 Oct 2007 00:00
Last Modified: 29 Feb 2012 12:58

Export: EndNote | Dublin Core | BibTeX

Repository Staff Only: item control page