A drop in child abuse was first erroneously reported in 2010 in the New York Times which stated that the incidents of child abuse and neglect had dropped 38% from 1993 to 2006. That same year, at NBC NEWS.com, they also incorrectly reported that “Child Abuse Drops Sharply in US”… “by 26 percent from 1993 to 2006.”
MOST INCIDENTS OF CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT ARE NEVER REPORTED, so these articles were not based on sound evidence.
In just one area of child abuse reporting – sexual abuse – how data is actually gathered presents a clearer picture of how numbers can be distorted. A report compiled in 2002 provided a much more accurate analysis of how research errors could occur to produce and estimate the “decrease” in reported sociosexual violence. The report more accurately reflects how the FBI and DOJ minimize child sexual abuse reporting. This is accomplished by:
- Reporting child sex abuse rates by deleting official data on sex abuse of children under age 12;
- Eliminating sodomy of boys by reclassifying boys in an ageless “male” rape category;
- Lowering child abuse predator recidivism by aggregating child molesters into a generalized category of “violent assault;”
- Decreasing abuse data for unmarried fathers, step-fathers, and live-in boyfriends by aggregating these men with biological, married fathers into “parents and caretakers” for incest offenders;
- Excising data on prostituted and other child sex abuse crimes from DOJ’s “Severity of Crime” scales that measure public views of crime severity—implying that child sexual abuse is benign; and
- Wholesale failure to tabulate data on child sexual abuse within the child protective services system accurately.
Current rape penalties are often quite trivial depending on the age difference between child victim and rapist. In 1990, the American Bar Association reported 80% of convicted child molesters plea-bargain and serve no prison time. Meanwhile, survivors are automatically given a life sentence without the possibility of parole for the torture they endured during their abuse and the resulting aftereffects of their trauma.
What the American public needs to do is to encourage their state and federal lawmakers to develop a standardized method of reporting child mental, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse and neglect across the country by clinicians, criminal justice organizations, social services, healthcare organizations, insurance companies, researchers, and public policy makers as an inclusive document of all reporters.
Until our government gets serious about reporting accurately on the incidence of child abuse and neglect, we will continue to be misled about the magnitude of the problem.
 “How the FBI and DOJ Minimize Child Sexual Abuse Reporting,” Judith A. Reisman, Ph.D., The Institute of Media Education, July 2002