(Retrieved on February 24, 2022; Full Text)
Study: Child sex abuse 'epidemic'
Published September 11, 2001
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A study released
Monday revealed that between 300,000 and 400,000 U.S. children -- many
from middle class homes -- are victims of some type of sexual
exploitation every year.
The three-year study, funded in part by the U.S. Department of Justice,
analyzed the problem of sexual exploitation -- particularly commercial
sexual exploitation -- of children in the United States, Canada and
Among the findings of a study titled "The Commercial Sexual
Exploitation of Children in the U.S., Canada and Mexico":
*325,000 children are sexually exploited in the United States annually.
Of that figure, 121,911 ran away from home and 51,602 were thrown out
of their homes by a parent or guardian.
* 25 percent of exploiters of children are other children.
* Children who engage in prostitution can earn between $200 and $1,500
* 75 percent of children who are victims of commercial sexual
exploitation are from middle class backgrounds.
* 40 percent of the girls who engaged in prostitution were sexually
abused at home, as were 30 percent of the boys.
Source: The Associated Press
"Child sexual exploitation is the most hidden form of child abuse in
the U.S. and North America today," said Richard J. Estes, co-author of
the study. "It is the nation's least recognized epidemic."
He said the findings debunked many myths about what kind of children
are involved in sexual exploitation.
"Seventy-five percent of the children we met on the streets are
children from working class and middle class families and the simple
majority of them are white," Estes said.
"One of the other myths is that this is a problem [of] poor, inner
city, mostly minority youth. We cannot confirm that to be the case, but
rather just the opposite."
Those who perpetrate sex crimes against children come from all parts of
society and include relatives and other adults known and trusted by the
children or their families, he said.
"Despite popular notions to the contrary," Estes said, "strangers
commit fewer than 4 percent of all the sexual assaults against
The study, titled "The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in
the U.S., Canada and Mexico," identified 17 groups of children in the
United States at substantial risk for sexual exploitation.
Estes, a professor of social work at the University of Pennsylvania,
said most of these children are runaways and homeless kids who trade
"survival sex" for food, shelter and clothing on the streets of U.S.
Some children in the United States, however, also engage in commercial
sex while living at home.
"The majority of these children trade sex for money or for more
expensive clothes or other consumer goods," Estes said. "Most of the
'customers' of these children are members of their own junior and
senior high school peer groups."
Other groups of commercially sexually exploited children in the United
States include girls in gangs, children brought into the country
illegally, and American youths trafficked nationally and
internationally as part of organized sex crime rings.
Boys are victimized as often as girls, Estes said.
Many of those who solicit children for sex are men who are married with
children of their own, the study reported.
The report, in an 11-point action agenda, called for the earlier
identification and more intensive supervision of sexually offending
adults and juveniles.
The study found gaps in policies and services intended to combat sexual
exploitation of children and help the victims.
For the project, researchers selected 28 cities in the three countries
-- 17 in the United States -- based on their size and for being known
as having problems with the commercial sexual exploitation of children.
Seventeen cities were chosen in the United States.
The researchers examined public records and interviewed about 1,000
children, law enforcement officials, and human services groups. They
used previous data and field research from 288 federal and local
agencies to extrapolate their findings to the U.S. population.
The study was conducted by the National Association of Social Workers
and the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Work.
"I think what the report highlights is that we're simply not doing a
good enough job in this country taking care of our children," said Shay
Bilchik of the Child Welfare League of America.
"We've got to pay closer attention to the problem including what's
happening in our own homes and neighborhoods with kids who we think
we're taking good care of."
to Child Sex Abuse Epidemic