Prevalence of Sexual Violence
The Otago Women’s Health Survey results released in 1991 found one in three girls before the age of sixteen are likely to be sexually abused. Also, one if four women are likely to experience some form of unwanted sexual abuse as adults (ie over 16 years) (Mullen et al., 1991).
From the Otago Study women who reported child sexual abuse in a postal questionnaire were invited to an interview, along with an equal number who had reported no abuse. This study found that 32 per cent of the women had experienced some form of sexual abuse such as genital contact, attempted intercourse or actual intercourse before the age of 16. Of these, 16% were under 12 years old, with the greatest age risk being eight to twelve years old (Anderson et al 1993).
The New Zealand Youth 2000 study of almost 10,000 male and female high school students under the age of eighteen were asked a variety of questions including, ‘Have you ever been touched in a sexual way or made to do sexual things that you didn’t want to do?’ The responses indicated, 26 per cent of girls and 14 per cent of boys reported unwanted sexual experiences (Fleming et al, 2007).
The New Zealand Violence Against Women Study conducted through the University of Auckland (Fanslow et al 2007) was based on a random sample of women aged 18-64 years from Auckland and north Waikato (2,855 women interviewed). In Auckland, 23.5% of women and 28.2% in Waikato reported having been sexually touched, or made to do something sexual that they did not want to do prior to the age of 15 years. In Auckland, Maori were more than twice as likely to have been sexually touched as a child than those of European or other ethnicity. In north Waikato, Maori were nearly twice as likely to have been sexually abused. The median age of victims at the time of the first sexual abuse was 9 years (both regions).
Half of all victims experienced the abuse once or twice, approximately one-quarter experienced sexual abuse a few times and one-quarter experienced it many times.
The Adverse Childhood Experiences study carried out in the USA found 16 per cent of males and 25 per cent of females reported some form of childhood sexual abuse (Dube et al, 2005)
Less than 40% of survivors are likely to disclose the abuse (Mullen et al., 1991).
The Anderson study (1993) found that only 7.5% of cases of child sexual abuse were ever officially reported.
Research conducted by Dr Kim McGregor (2003) of 191 women with histories of child sexual abuse found that they took 16 years on average before they told anyone about the abuse. Only 3.8% disclosed immediately. The majority of disclosures (76%) were first made to family, friends and partners. Only 15% of first disclosures were made to therapists and less than 4% to doctors and other health professionals.
The cost of child sexual abuse in New Zealand was estimated by Shirley Jülich (2004) to be $2.6 billion per year. These costs included costs to individuals (including out-of-pocket expenses for the survivor, the offender and their families) and the costs paid on behalf of the survivor and offender, including health, welfare and legal costs.
85% of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone known to the child (Mullen et al., 1991).
Fanslow (2007) found the majority of perpetrators were male family members, (with uncles being the most frequently reported perpetrator) with a median age of 21 years or older.
The McGregor study (2003) found that 94.9% of offenders were male. Over half of the total group of offenders (52.2%) were males related to the child and a further 42.7% were non-related males known to the survivor including, parents’ friends, neighbours, brother’s friends, boarders, teachers and priests.
About ¾ of sexual abusers start abusing before the age of 14 years (English et al., 2000).
Anderson, J. et al., The prevalence of childhood sexual abuse experiences in a community sample of women. Journal of the Americal Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 1993. 32(5): p.911-919.
Dube, S. R., Anda, R. F., Whitfield, C. L., Brown, D. W., Feletti, V.J., Dong, M, Files, W. H., 2005 Long-term consequences of childhood sexual abuse by gender of victim. American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 28(5), 430-438.
English, K., Jones, L., Psini-Hill, D., Patrick, D., and Colley-Towell, S., (2000), The Value of Polygraph Testing in Sex Offender Management Colorado Department of Public Safety, Devner.
Fanslow, J., Robinson, E. M., Crengle, S., & Perese, L. 2007 Prevalence of child sexual abuse reported by a cross-sectional sample of New Zealand women. Child Abuse & Neglect, 31(9)1, 935-945.
Fleming, T., Watson, P., Robinson, E., Ameratunga, S., Dixon, R., Clark, T., et al 2007 Violence and New Zealand Young People: Findings of Youth 2000 – A national secondary school youth health and wellbeing survey. Auckland: The University of Auckland.
Jülich, S. J. 2004 Exploring the costs of child sexual abuse: Aotearoa, New Zealand. Paper presented at The 3rd Biennial Conference of Australian and New Zealand Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (April 14-17), Auckland.
McGregor, K., Therapy – It’s a two-way thing: women survivors of child sexual abuse describe their therapy experiences. Psychology, 2003, University of Auckland. P. 1-265.
Mullen, R, Anderson, J., Roman-Clarkson, S., and Martin, J. (1991). Otago Women’s Health Survey. Unpublished manuscript, Otago University Medical School, Dunedin.