Protecting the Sexual Innocence of Children In Youth-Serving Organizations

Prevalence of Childhood Sexual Abuse

The prevalence of child sexual abuse has been the focus of researchers for decades. The numbers have been fairly consistent over time, considering the differences in methodologies used and the specific definition of sexual abuse. Studies in the United States report:

Year Researcher Percent of Females Abused Percent of Males Abused
1990 Finkelhor 27 percent 16 percent
1997 Bolen, et al. 20 percent 7 percent
1997 Gorey and Leslie 17 percent 8 percent
2003 Briere and Elliott 32 percent 14 percent
2004 Simpson, et al. 27 percent 20 percent
2005 Dube, et al. 25 percent 16 percent
2007 Albanese 20 percent 10 percent
2014 Finkelhor 26.6 percent 5.1 percent

The following international studies fall in line with the prevalence found in the United States.

Year Researcher Percent of Females Abused Percent of Males Abused
2009 Perede, et al. 19.7 percent 7.9 percent
2011 Stoltenborgh, et al. 18 percent 7.6 percent
2013 Barth 15 percent 8 percent


The bottom line is that child sexual abuse is quite prevalent.

1 in 4 Girls and 1 in 6 Boys are Sexually Abused Before Their 18th Birthday

The most commonly used statistic is 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before the age of 18.9, 10 That is 20 percent of our children. To put that in perspective, the Center for Disease Control estimates that 5–20 percent of the US population will get the flu each season.11 So this next flu season, when you hear “we can’t make it, my husband has the flu” or “my son was throwing up all night” or “I really don’t feel well, I think I’m coming down with the flu,” imagine that they are all child sexual abuse survivors. Imagine instead that these survivors were saying “my mother was inappropriate with me my whole life” or “my uncle raped me” or “my priest molested me.” Then realize that they likely represent a fraction of the people in your life who have been abused.