Child Abuse Facts and Figures

Child abuse is a horrific experience with potentially lasting effects. It’s also, unfortunately, a common experience. Here’s a look at the scope of the problem.

Nearly 700,000 children are abused in the U.S each year. An estimated 678,000 children (unique incidents) were victims of abuse and neglect in 2018, the most recent year for which there is national data. That’s about 1% of kids in a given year. However, this data may be incomplete, and the actual number of children abused is likely underreported.

Child welfare authorities ensure the safety of more than 3.5 million kids More than 3.5 million children received an investigation or alternative response from child protective services agencies. An estimated 1.9 million children received prevention services.

An estimated 1,770 children died from abuse and neglect in the United States in 2018, the most recent year for which there is national data. But child abuse fatalities are not the only consequences  abused children suffer. Sexual abuse, physical abuse, and neglect are forms of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) that researchers have linked to mental health problems, such as mood disorders, anxiety, substance abuse, and impulse control disorders. Child abuse often co-occurs with other ACEs, like witness to domestic violence or community violence, traumatic loss or separation, or sexual assault. Adults with multiple ACEs have even been shown to be more likely to endure poor health outcomes like diabetes, STDs, heart disease, and early death.

Source: National Children’s Alliance

Please click one of the links below to learn more about each topic.

In New Jersey, child abuse is legally defined as the physical, sexual or emotional harm or risk of harm to a child under the age of 18 caused by a parent or other person who acts as a caregiver for the child.

Neglect occurs when a parent or caregiver fails to provide proper supervision for a child or adequate food, clothing, shelter, education or medical care although financially able or assisted to do so.

In New Jersey, ANY person having reasonable cause to believe that a child has been abused or neglected has a legal responsibility to report it to the Division of Child Protection and Permanency. A concerned caller does not need proof to report an allegation of child abuse and can make the report anonymously. Any person who knowingly fails to report suspected abuse or neglect according to the law or to comply with the provisions of the law is a disorderly person and subject to a fine of up to $1,000 or up to six months imprisonment, or both.

There are a number of warning signs that may indicate that a child is being abused or neglected.

A child may disclose to you that they are being abused. It is very important to react appropriately.

To report possible child abuse, call New Jersey’s Child Abuse/Neglect Hotline at 1-877-NJ ABUSE (652-2873) (TTY/TDD use 1-800-835-5510. Outside the state of New Jersey, call (800) 422-4453. They are available and will respond 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If a child is in immediate danger, you should call 911.

Who Is Responsible For Reporting Suspected Child Abuse In New Jersey?
In New Jersey, ANY person having reasonable cause to believe that a child has been abused or neglected has a legal responsibility to report it to the Division of Child Protection and Permanency. A concerned caller does not need proof to report an allegation of child abuse and can make the report anonymously. Any person who knowingly fails to report suspected abuse or neglect according to the law or to comply with the provisions of the law is a disorderly person and subject to a fine of up to $1,000 or up to six months imprisonment, or both.

How Do I Report Child Abuse In New Jersey?
Call New Jersey’s Child Abuse/Neglect Hotline at 1 (877) NJ ABUSE (652-2873) (TTY/TDD use 1 (800) 835-5510. Outside the state of New Jersey, call (800) 422-4453. They are available and will respond 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If a child is in immediate danger, you should call 911.

Do Callers Have Immunity From Civil Or Criminal Liability?
Any person who, in good faith, makes a report of child abuse or neglect or testifies in a child abuse hearing resulting from such a report is immune from any criminal or civil liability as a result of such action. Calls can be placed to the hotline anonymously.

What Happens When I Call The Child Abuse/Neglect Hotline?
The hotline is answered by trained caseworkers who know how to respond to reports of child abuse/neglect. This caseworker may ask you about:

  • Who: The child and parent/caregiver’s name, age and address and the name of the alleged perpetrator and that person’s relationship to the child.
  • What: Type and frequency of alleged abuse/neglect, current or previous injuries to the child and what caused you to become concerned.
  • When: When the alleged abuse/neglect occurred and when you learned of it.
  • Where: Where the incident occurred, where the child is now and whether the alleged perpetrator has access to the child.
  • How: How urgent the need is for intervention and whether there is a likelihood of imminent danger for the child.

 
What Happens After I Make The Call?
When a report indicates that a child may be at risk, the Division of Child Protection & Permanency will promptly investigate the allegations of child abuse and neglect within 24 hours of receipt of the report.

We all care about children. We urge you to report any concern about the welfare of a child to DCP&P, the legal authorities responsible for investigating suspected situations of abuse. You should call 1 (877) NJ-ABUSE and let them know the details of your concern. They will take the matter seriously and gather information that is in the best interest of the child.

We teach our children all sorts of tools for staying safe – looking both ways before crossing the street, avoiding hot stovetops, knowing how to dial 911. There is a set of knowledge of body safety which, taught to children early and discussed frequently, can help protect them from sexual abuse. These straightforward include:

  1. Teach children the correct names for parts; they should be no less comfortable referring to a penis or vagina than to an elbow or knee.
  2. Teach children that some body parts – such as those covered by a bathing suit – are private. No one should touch or look at their private parts, except a caregiver or a doctor to help make sure they are clean and healthy, and no one should ask them to touch someone else’s private parts. 
  3. Tell children that nobody should ever take pictures of their private parts. 
  4. Discuss the difference between surprises and secrets. Nobody should ask a child to keep a secret from their parents.
  5. Teach children that they can say no if someone asks them to do something that feels wrong – and that they can walk away, or ask an adult or a peer to leave. Let them know that there won’t be repercussions for telling you if someone made them uncomfortable.
  6. Together, crate a list of “trusted adults” that children can talk to if someone or something is making them uncomfortable.
  7. Help children to understand about boundaries and consent – their own as well as those of others. 

Between school, games, and socializing, children and teens spend a great deal of time online – even more so with the virtual/hybrid learning models instituted as a result of the pandemic. With all the benefits offered by the internet, however, there comes some inherent danger. The good news is that parents can effectively stay on top of their children’s online activities to help ensure their safety.

  1. Regularly check the apps on all technology used by your children. Try out the apps and see how they work. Learn the access, privacy, and messaging policy of each app, and read the fine print.
  2. Enable parental controls which give you the ability to restrict access and monitor messaging.
  3. Directly supervise children under 8 in any technology use.
  4. Make sure that location services are turned off on all devices.
  5. Ensure that your child uses YOUR name and email, not their own, for all games and apps that ask them to create an ID or give any information.
  6. Talk to your child regularly, in an age-appropriate way, about potential consequences of interacting with people online, especially sending pictures and messages of a sexual nature. • Reassure children that they should not be afraid to tell you if they made a mistake (i.e. accepted a request from someone they didn’t know or sent an inappropriate picture) and that you will work it out together.
  7. Let children know that they should ALWAYS tell you if someone online makes them uncomfortable.

Parents can also keep an eye out for some red flags that may indicate that further conversation or action is needed:

  1. Secrecy about online activities
  2. Obsessiveness about being online
  3. Changing screens or turning of the computer when an adult enters the room
  4. Getting angry when unable to go online
  5. Receiving phone calls, messages, or gifts (real or virtual) from unknown sources

Any behavior that looks like an attempt to exploit children, such as asking for naked photos, using sexual language, or asking to meet, should be reported to the Cybertip Line, 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678).

ACEs stands for adverse childhood experiences. These are stressful or traumatic events that occur before the age of 18. ACEs are common, and include events such as parental separation, experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect, or having a loved one attempt or die by suicide. Adverse community events such as poverty and discrimination can further compound the effects of ACEs.

A landmark study found the higher the number of ACEs, the more likely one can experience negative health effects like heart disease, diabetes, stroke, depression, anxiety and asthma. And the economic cost of ACEs in North America alone is estimated to be over $700 billion annually.

The good news is, protective factors can help children heal from ACEs and shield them from the long-term impacts of trauma. In a 2019 study, higher counter-ACEs scores [i.e., positive childhood experiences] were associated with improved adult health and that counter-ACEs neutralized the negative impact of ACEs on adult outcomes.

There are many ways to build a child’s resiliency and reduce the impact of trauma: making connections with caring and competent adults, helping a child build a sense of belonging and building stronger connections to community, culture and spirituality.

You can learn more about ACEs, including New Jersey’s action plan for combating their negative effects, at https://actions4aces.com/

Sexual exploration and play are a natural part of childhood sexual development. Some childhood sexual behaviors, however, indicate more than harmless curiosity. In some cases, sexual behaviors pose a risk to the safety and well-being of the child and other children in his or her world. These sexual behavior problems tend to continue even after the child has been told to stop or limit the behavior.

Sexual behaviors in children may be considered problematic if they have one or more of the following characteristics:

  1. Are clearly beyond the child’s developmental stage
  2. Involve threats, force, or aggression
  3. Involve inappropriate or harmful use of sexual body parts (for example, inserting items)
  4. Involve children of widely different ages or abilities (such as a 12-year-old “playing doctor” with a four-year-old)

  5. Are associated with strong emotional reactions in a child—such as anger or anxiety
  6. Interfere with typical childhood interests and activities

Some of the factors that have been linked to the development of sexual behavior problems include:

  1. Exposure to traumatic experiences, such as abuse, natural disasters, or accidents
  2. Exposure to violence in the home
  3. Excessive exposure to adult sexual activity or nudity in the home (including media exposure through television or the Internet)
  4. Inadequate rules about modesty or privacy in the home
  5. Inadequate supervision in the home

People may react more strongly to these problems because they are sexual in nature, but children with sexual behavior problems are much like children with other types of behavioral problems. It’s important to remember that the child may have behaved in an inappropriate way, but can learn proper behaviors. children with sexual behavior problems are — first and foremost — children.

Children who receive treatment for their sexual behavior problems rarely commit sexual offenses as adults. Highly effective evidence- based treatments, provided by specially trained therapists, are available to children with sexual behavior problems.

For more information, contact the National Center on the Sexual Behavior of Youth .