Child maltreatment, including the sexual abuse of children and adolescents, is a problem of enormous social significance in the United States today. According to the National Center for Children Exposed to Violence (2003), a nationally representative sample of 12 to 17 year-olds revealed that as much as 8 percent reported a lifetime prevalence of sexual assault, 17 percent reported physical assault, and 40 percent reported witnessing violence. While only 20 percent of children exposed to or victims of a traumatic event have been identified as manifesting a psychiatric disorder, of those who do have such disorders, the diagnosis tends to be some type of anxiety disorder, a category which include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (National Center for children Exposed to Violence, 2003).
Further, the Children's Bureau (2003) reported that's as of 2001, about 903,000 children (about 12.4 children per 1000 in the population) were victims of some type of abuse or neglect. Of that total û which represents an estimate and not a firm number û 9.6 percent were identified as likely to be victims of sexual abuse. The problem is therefore of significance to social workers and other members of the "helping professions" who provide prevention and intervention services to members of this population.
This report will offer an overview of the incidence and effects of child abuse in the United States. It will demonstrate that child abuse is a problem of enormous û and growing û significance, a problem that damages untold lives and can traumatize families for generations. Recent literature will be used in the report to illustrate the nature and extent of the problem.
A total of 2.7 million cases of child maltreatment û actions that harm children either physically or psychologically û occur (or are reported) each year in the United States (Baron & Byrne, 2000). Such maltreatment takes many different forms, but most cases ...