It is extremely difficult to quantify any form of deviant behaviors such as child abuse in the general population because doing so requires all victims to report their abuse. Almost all published empirical studies that focus on the disclosure of child maltreatment and juvenile sexual abuse suggest that a large portion of victims of child abuse who report their maltreatment to higher authorities often delay doing so. Moreover, a high percentage of victims never disclose the abuse they endure at all.
The delay between the first incident and the ensuing disclosure of sexual abuse varies on an idiosyncratic basis depending on various factors including the age of the juvenile victim at the time of the incident; the gender of the abused; the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator of the sexual abuse; the likely ramifications of disclosure to authorities; the various cognitive and developmental variables associated with the abused child; and the severity of the reported sexual abuse (Johnson-Reid et al., 2010). As such, juvenile sexual abuse remains profoundly underreported. In the cases of young victims reporting their sexual abuse, it often takes years after the time of the incident for them to do so as evident in adult retrospective assessments on sexual abuse during childhood.
Despite the difficulty in quantifying child abuse prevalence, there are various legislative and governmental mechanisms in place in order to address the problem of child abuse and violence. A selective bibliography of scholarly research and studies conducted therein in addition to governmental documents further sheds light on the issue and underscores various avenues for future research needed to combat the frequent problem of child abuse in the United States today.
California Attorney General’s Office. (1988). California child victim witness judicial advisory committee: Final report. Office of the Attorney General.
This government document from the state of California reports on both the judicial and investigative procedures and processes that implemented in California relative to cases of child abuse and for those who witness such incidents.
Government officials pay special attention to unique issues and problems confronted by victims of intrafamilial child abuse and violence in coordination with civil and criminal justice processes and proceedings. In California, much attention is paid to ensuring that victims of child abuse are safeguarding from having to testify in court against their abuser. Moreover, the issue of juvenile witnesses of child abuse is directly addressed. This report provides a thorough legislative analysis of the issue of child abuse and its various facets within the state of California that helps stress the fact that child abuse and neglect is taken very seriously by local and state governments.
The report expands the definition of child abuse beyond physical harm endured by a child. Rather, emotional abuse must also be adjudicated by the criminal justice system, a facet that hitherto had not been clearly defined because it is an encompassing term. According to the report, emotional abuse refers to any behavioral patterns exhibited by a parent or caretaker that blunts the psychological and/or emotional development and health of a child.
Such impairing activities can include neglect, humiliation, rejection, threats, intimidation, words or actions that induce guilt or fear in a child, lack of support or affection to a child, and criticism
. Children who bear witness to domestic violence—especially between parents—also constitutes a form of emotional maltreatment. All suspected cases of emotional abuse, like physical abuse, need to be reported to state agencies or law enforcement so as to not endanger the child any further.
This report is useful by clearly outlining child abuse policies and processes and the mission of the state government to combat the problem. Moreover, it underscores how local, state, and national agencies collaborate in order to address the issue of child abuse and neglect. By widening the definition of child abuse beyond the physical, this report sheds light on the importance of forging healthy relationships between parents and children so that they do not grow up damaged and thus engage in deviant behavior
. It could be improved by outlining which populations are vulnerable, or more at-risk, for child abuse to take place. Environmental factors such as socioeconomic status , locale (urban or rural), and family dynamics play a role in child abuse prevalence. Identifying at-risk populations for escalating levels of child abuse facilitates reporting of incidents and could possibly reduce child abuse incidents. A discussion of the effectiveness of interventions that had been implemented at the state level would also have been useful for researchers on this topic.