Child Abuse & Neglect, 88, 389-399
Background: Child sexual abuse (CSA) rates have been declining since the 1990s (Dunne et al., 2003; Finkelhor & Jones, 2004, 2012; Jones et al., 2001). Discrepancies in contexts and measures complicate comparing CSA rates across jurisdictions and studies, and there is limited literature about trends in CSA in Canada.
Objective: Using data from the Ontario Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect (OIS), the only source of provincially aggregated data in Ontario, Canada, that describes child welfare investigations, this paper provides information on reported and investigated CSA over the past 20 years.
Participants and setting: The OIS uses a file review methodology; information is collected directly from investigating child welfare workers.
Methods: A sample of child welfare agencies is selected for the study, and data are collected over a three-month period. Weights are applied to produce annual provincial estimates.
Results: The rates of investigated CSA in Ontario decreased between 1993 and 2013, from 5.20 (95% CI [3.94, 6.47]) to 1.81 (95% CI [0.97, 2.66]) children per 1000. During this time, the rate of all child maltreatment-related investigations doubled, from 21.41 (95% CI [18.38, 24.42]) to 53.32 ([29.61, 77.03]) children per 1000.
Conclusions: Unlike other forms of child maltreatment, the incidence of investigated CSA in Ontario declined since 1993. Substantiation rates for CSA investigations decreased more dramatically than the rate of all CSA investigations, which could indicate a true decline in rate or an inability to accurately identify cases of CSA.