A new report by the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine provides some welcome news on child abuse – over 20 years, awareness is up and the incidence of abuse is down.
But abuse – both physical and sexual – is only part of the big picture of child risk, and that picture is far from rosy. Neglect – highly correlated with poverty – continues at an undiminished rate, and reports of psychological and emotional abuse to state child protective agencies in fact are rising.
The best epidemiological evidence suggests that at least 1.25 million children (17.2 per 1000) suffer abuse in any given year, with several times that number at risk of abuse. Given the well-documented long-term, cumulative, and lasting damage inflicted on individuals, families, and communities, child maltreatment rates as one of our greatest public health issues.