Is Child Sexual Abuse Declining in Canada
By Delphine Collin-Vézina, Sonia Hélie, Nico Trocmé
Summarized by Judi Fairholm, RespectED Director
Part of this decline has been attributed to implementation of prevention programs and treatment of offenders.
Statistics Canada has not followed a consistent pattern as their U.S. counterparts. Data reported from the General Social Survey, a self-reported criminal survey conducted on a 5 year basis by Statistics Canada among Canadians aged 15 and older, shows the rate of sexual assaults remain stable from 1999 to 2004. These surveys do not record what is happening to children below the age of 15years. Police reports show a decline of 24% in sexual assaults from 1999 to 2006 with lesser types of sexual assault remaining stable. A worrisome trend is that charges related to the production and distribution of child pornography has increased by 900% between 1998 and 2003.
The Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect (CIS) is the only nation-wide study to conduct studies focusing on annual incident reports regarding child maltreatment and characteristics of children and families investigated by Canadian child protection services. However, cases investigated by only police, known in the community but not reported and those unknown to community members or professionals are not included in these surveys.
The latest CIS analysis shows a drop of 30% in child sexual abuse cases from 1998 to 2003, while an increase of 107% of child physical abuse cases and 78% increase in child neglect. Although “the increase in cases of substantiated maltreatment appears to be partly attributable to a shift in the way investigating workers classify cases with a much smaller proportion of cases being classified as suspected,” the final conclusion calls for further research. The data is inconsistent between CIS, victimization surveys and police databases. The question on the decline of child sexual abuse in Canada has still not been answered.