Monday, December 5, 2011

Sex Abuse of Children: Statistics Exaggerate the Problem

Richard Wexler of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform recently wrote in Youth Today, “In the wake of the Penn State scandal, that one-in-four / one-in-six claim has become nearly ubiquitous. And despite it turning up in scores of news stories and opinion pieces I have found not one that cited an actual study.”

Wexler makes the argument in Youth Today, that the best available estimates, from comprehensive reviews of multiple studies suggest that 10 to 12 percent of girls and five to six percent of boys are victims of child sexual abuse. Those numbers are plenty serious enough. It’s plenty of reason for concern and action – but not the kind of action that those pushing the hyped numbers want, like urging - or forcing - anyone and everyone to report anything and everything to child abuse hotlines. That would only deluge those hotlines with more false reports, leaving workers less time to find children in real danger.

Joette Katz, a child protective services administrator in Connecticut suggests that expanding reporting requirements would subject thousands of children who were not otherwise abused to the trauma of a child abuse investigation.

Some of those children likely would end up in foster care, which has problems of its own. According to Wexler, most foster parents try to do the best they can for the children in their care, however research suggests abuse in one-quarter to one-third of foster homes. The record of group homes and institutions is worse. The accused in the Penn State sex scandal and cover-up, Jerry Sandusky, was a foster parent. His charity began as a group home.

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