One in three Florida women and one in five men say they’ve been sexually abused before the age of 18.
That’s according to a recent Internet survey of more than 1,000 Floridians, conducted by Sachs Media Group for the Lauren’s Kids foundation. Those who conducted the poll say it both supports common perceptions about child sexual abuse and indicates that barriers exist to reporting such crimes.
“It’s a lot of what we see and what we know,” said Lauren Book, founder and CEO of the South Florida-based sex abuse prevention nonprofit. “We see these things day in and day out.”
Thirty-four percent of respondents said a friend or family member was definitely sexually abused before 18. Fourteen percent said someone close to them probably was abused before 18.
According to the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website, about 1.8 million adolescents in the United States have been the victims of sexual assault; about 36 percent of those are between the ages of 12 and 17. About 82 percent of minor victims are girls.
Earlier this year, three employees of The Magnolia School on Tharpe Street were charged with failure to report suspected sexual abuse of a 12-year-old girl.
“I think the first thing that jumps out is what validates the stats that are already out there,” said Karen Cyphers, vice president for research and policy at Sachs Media Group.
Of the various takeaways from the study, which will be released in full on Thursday, is that there’s still insecurity and apprehension about reporting child sexual abuse, she said.
“People do really find a lot of barriers to reporting,” Cyphers said.
Nearly 50 percent of all parents worry a child may not be accurately recalling an incident, the survey found. About 43 percent of fathers are concerned their daughter could be ridiculed by peers and about a fifth of parents fear a lengthy legal process.
“We see this stuff every day; people are afraid to get involved,” Book said. “They aren’t sure they have all the information.”
But Book said the law in Florida is clear: Everyone is required to report child sexual abuse. The study found that 1 in 5 people did not know that.
“I’m really glad to shine the light that this is the prevailing thought out there,” she said. “The reality is that a child needs us … to be their voice for them.”
Barriers to reporting:
•30 percent fear child would be ridiculed by other children
•24 percent don’t want to be dragged through legal process
•10 percent said they would feel too much shame for the family
•48 percent said children might not be accurate
Impact later in life:
•52 percent of those abused reported “some” or “quite a few” adult problems as a result
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