Empire State News claimed it is false to say one in five children are sexually abused in the U.S. Instead, the site says the number is less than one percent of children who are sexually abused.
But, the original statistic — 1 in 5 — was correct by general child sexual abuse statistics, and Empire State News‘ claim, which is not sourced to any organization or person, doesn’t match with what advocacy organizations like RAINN and Darkness to Light have found.
iMediaEthics has contacted the New York state-based Empire State News to ask what its source is for the “less than one percent” claim. We have not heard back. Activist Nancy Levine reported on Medium about the Empire State News and hasn’t heard back from the publication since her first Aug. 31 e-mail.
The Empire State News story by Temple Li is headlined “Boak’s Rally for Omnibus Child Victims Act Valiant, but Inflated Sexual Abuse Stat all Wrong.”
Empire State News has an inactive Facebook and Twitter page. Its About page lists a dozen staff, with the publisher listed as Jimmy the Saint and two reporters having clearly fake names – King Kong and The Old Bag.
The article says:
“A media advisory from a New York state senator, Alison Boak, presents a dubious statistic: that one in five children are sexually abused. Really? According to who?
“If this is true, it means that 20% of the people walking the Earth have been sexually abused. It also, alternatively, means that approximately 20% of people alive have sexually abused a child (it’s only “approximately” here, to take into account those who are repeat offenders). This stat is terrifically hard to believe.
“There are really that many ULTRA-evil people surrounding us? So, every time I am at a restaurant or sitting on a bus or walking down the street, every fifth person I encounter has committed an act of child sexual abuse? Wow – we would need to ask entire states to donate all of their land to serve as maximum security prisons if this statistic is accurate.
“The truth is this: less than one percent of children are sexually abused. That REAL statistic is still alarming.”
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What do National Organizations Report?
In reality, the percent of children sexually abused is between 10 and 25%.
The U.S. Department of Justice’s National Sex Offender Public Website says that, “Research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that approximately 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused before the age of 17.”
That information is also reported on the website for The National Child Traumatic Stress Network.
Darkness to Light spokesperson Karen Monahan told iMediaEthics, “We used to use one in 4 girls and one in 6 boys and that is a commonly used statistic but we now believe that to be less accurate than 1 in 10. ” Darkness to Light advocates for the end of child sexual abuse and to promote awareness about child sexual abuse.
She pointed to Darkness to Light’s March study, “Estimating a Child Sexual Abuse Prevalence Rate for Practitioners: An Updated Review of Child Sexual Abuse Prevalence Studies.” The study notes its statistics only concern “data on contact abuse.”
The study notes, “It is more difficult for child sexual abuse organizations to engage the public and funders when there is no reliable, consistent statistic.”
Specifically, the study breaks down the rate for peer-perpetrated and non-peer-perpetrated contact abuse for boys and girls, but suggested one simple statistic for the public of approximately one in ten children in the U.S.. The full breakdowns for contact abuse:
“The proposed prevalence rate that includes peer-perpetrated abuse is 12.5% – 15.4%*. The rate for girls is 20% -26.6%* and the rate for boys is 5.0% – 5.1%*. The proposed prevalence rate that does not include peer-perpetrated abuse is 8.1% to 8.2%*. The rate is 11.7% to 12.2%* for girls and 4.1 to 4.5* for boys. To avoid confusion, the authors suggest that the message conveyed to non-scientific funders and the public is “About one in 10 children is sexually abused by the age of 18*”
RAINN, an “anti-sexual assault organization,” pointed iMediaEthics to the statistics it lists on its website, stating that “one in 9 girls and 1 in 53 girls under the age of 18 experience sexual abuse or asasult at the hands of an adult.” The source for its statistic is the 2014 paper “The Lifetime Prevalence of Child Sexual Abuse and Sexual Assault Assessed in Late Adolescence.”