National Statistics on Child Abuse

Child abuse is a horrific experience with potentially lasting effects. It’s also, unfortunately, a common experience in America. Here’s a look at the scope of the problem.

The scope of the problem

More than 600,000 children are abused in the U.S each year. An estimated 600,000 children (unique incidents) were victims of abuse and neglect in 2021, the most recent year for which there is national data. The actual number of children abused is likely underreported because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in 2021.

Child welfare authorities ensure the safety of more than 7 million kids.Of those, around 3 million children received an investigation or alternative response from child protective services agencies. This is a decrease from previous years; explanations from various states for the change include a backlog reduction, changes to screening and assessment policies, and reductions due to the pandemic. An estimated 1.8 million children received prevention services.

How child abuse impacts kids

The youngest children were most vulnerable. Children in the first year of their life are 15% of all victims, and more than a quarter (28%) of child maltreatment victims are no more than 2 years old.1

Breaking down child abuse by demographics, girls had a victimization rate of 8.7 per 1,000 girls in the population, higher than boys at 7.5 per 1,000 boys.4 American Indian or Alaska Native children have the highest rate of victimization at 15.2 per 1,000 children in the population of the same race or ethnicity, while African American children have the second-highest rate at 13.1 per 1,000 children of the same race or ethnicity.1

Child abuse is deadly. In 2021, an estimated 1,820 children died from abuse and neglect in the United States. Boys have a higher child fatality rate at 3.01 per 100,000 compared to girls at 2.15.4 African-American child fatalities (5.6 per 100,000) is 2.9 times greater than that of white children (1.94), and 3.9 times greater than Hispanic children (1.44).1

Nationally, neglect is the most common form of abuse. Three-fourths (76%) of victims are neglected, 16% are physically abused, and 10% are sexually abused, and 0.2% are sex trafficked.

Yet CACs serve far more sexual abuse cases, indicating a deeper problem.CACs investigated 247,543 cases involving sexual abuse allegations in 2022, around 58% of all cases our members carried through. While not all these cases resulted in a disclosure, charges, or a conviction, it’s an indication that the problem of sexual abuse may be much larger than federal statistics show. In the graph below, the data includes children who’ve reported multiple types of abuse.

Where and how child abuse happens

Most child victims are abused by a parent. In 2021, a reported 452,313 perpetrators abused or neglected a child. In substantiated child abuse cases, 77% of children were victimized by a parent.

Child-on-child abuse is common. At CACs in 2022, 21% of people alleged to have abused a child were themselves children (in cases where we knew the age of the alleged abuser). Around 14% of the total were teenagers.

How CACs help kids

CACs serve more than 380,000 kids each year, helping them to recover. In 2022, Children’s Advocacy Centers around the country served some 380,4942 child victims of abuse, providing victim advocacy and support to these children and their families.

CACs heal more than 200,000 kids each year. Our members offer 226,036 kids science-backed counseling and therapy services to help them recover from trauma and avoid the lifelong impacts of trauma.

Kids with problematic sexual behaviors get help at CACs. Treatments offered for children and youth with problematic sexual behaviors are successful; after treatment, 98% never go on to hurt another child.

CACs educate more than 1.5 million people each year, helping prevent abuse. We provided 1,598,005 people with abuse prevention education in 2022.

2022 Children’s Advocacy Center Raw Statistics

 


1 National annual child abuse statistics cited from U.S. Administration for Children & Families, Child Maltreatment 2022. This data, released annually, is the most current federal data available. The annual reports are available online at: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/data-research/child-maltreatment

National Children’s Alliance 2022 national statistics collected from Children’s Advocacy Center members and available on the NCA website: https://www.nationalchildrensalliance.org/cac-statistics

Carpentier, M, Silovsky, J, & Chaffin, M. (2006). Randomized trial of treatment for children with sexual behavior problems: Ten year follow-up. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 74, 482-488.
Caldwell, M. F. (2016). Quantifying the Decline in Juvenile Sexual Recidivism Rates. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law. Advance online publication. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/law0000094

4 Available federal statistics only affirmatively identify children as male or female, but this may vary from state to state on whether gender is recorded by the gender of the child’s identity or by birth records. NCA supports the right of children to receive gender-appropriate care regardless of their gender assigned at birth.

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