A recent study in the USA by Saint Louis University in Missouri found emergency hospital admissions for child and teen victims under 18 of sexual abuse rose sharply by 70% in a six year period (2010-2016). The study shows an alarming increase of 50% in respect of victims aged 12-17 and an overall increase in confirmed cases of abuse from 5,138 cases to 8,818. Of the 46,993 cases seen during 2010-2016, 85.14% involved girls, 44.75% involved those aged 12-17, and 15% of cases related to boys. One in five girls and one in 20 boys are estimated to be the victims of childhood sexual abuse, according to the National Center for Victims of Crime.
Sexual Abuse is now recognized as a mainstream ‘plague’ that affects whole communities, stretches the healthcare system and has a big impact on mental health and in schools. Dr. Anthoney Lim, director of pediatric emergency medicine at the Mount Sinai Health System in New York recognizes the study highlights abuse is “an ongoing and important public health issue in our country.”
It is speculated the rise could be attributable to human trafficking. However, that does not appear to provide an adequate enough explanation for the rising trend as the study did not focus on the significant number of 18-21 year olds who are victims of sex trafficking.
Despite the increase in emergency room admissions it was generally felt that sexual abuse rates overall have fallen over the last 20 years. It is recognised by the study that prevention was more effective than it once was and there was a greater awareness of the problem which itself leads to more effective reporting and response. The study questions whether there is room for improvement in training frontline staff and medics to more effectively spot human trafficking.
More clearly needs to be done given trafficking is on the rise the world over. A UN report published in January found that the number of human trafficking investigations through its office had hit a 13-year high.
Written by Jagdeep Hayre at BLM