Risk factors in child sexual abuse

J Forensic Leg Med. 2013 Apr;20(3):146-50. doi: 10.1016/j.jflm.2012.06.005. Epub 2012 Jul 13.


Objectives: To quantify the incidence of child sexual abuse allegations referred to a forensic examination centre; to identify possible risk factors predisposing children to sexual abuse by measuring their prevalence among the complainant population.

Methodology: The records of children involved in sexual abuse allegations presenting over a 12 month period were reviewed retrospectively. Demographic data such as nature of case, sex, ethnicity, number of previous allegations, assailant relationship, month of presentation, and age were compiled. Potential risk factors such as alcohol or drug use, being 'looked after', physical disability, learning disability, previous consensual sexual intercourse, past psychiatric history, and history of psychiatric support were compiled. Descriptive statistics were calculated.

Results: 138 cases were recorded, of which the majority were acute. Epidemiological data demonstrated a higher incidence in females and most complainants were of White British origin. Most of the cases were of first allegations and the assailant relationship was most frequently an acquaintance. The incidence was highest in January. The modal age was 15 years and age distribution was positively skewed. Of the potential risk factors studied, alcohol and drug use was the most prevalent. Prevalence increased with age for the majority of factors studied.

Conclusions: Alcohol and drug use may be an area in which preventative strategies would be beneficial. Ethnic minorities may hold a large amount of unreported cases.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / statistics & numerical data*
  • Coitus
  • Disabled Children / statistics & numerical data
  • Drug Overdose / epidemiology
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data
  • Family
  • Female
  • Forensic Medicine
  • Humans
  • Learning Disabilities / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Mental Health Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Racial Groups / statistics & numerical data
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / epidemiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Suicide, Attempted / statistics & numerical data
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology