The Secret Trauma: Incest in the Lives of Girls and Women

By Diana E. H. Russell | Go to book overview

5
Has Incestuous Abuse Increased in the United States.?

It is clear that the reporting of all types of child abuse and neglect has increased greatly in the past few years. The National Study of the Incidence and Severity of Child Abuse and Neglect reports that the incidence of child sexual abuse reported to Child Protective Service agencies, the police, and other social service or treatment facilities is increasing each year ( NCCAN 1981). Specifically, "in 1976, the first year for which data from all 50 states were available, 416,033 reports were documented; by 1979, the number had jumped to 711,142, an apparent increase of 71 percent over a three year period" (p. 2). The stated assumption is that this increase is due to "growing public awareness" and "trends toward broadening and publicizing of report laws," not to an increase in the incidence of child sexual abuse (p. 2).

Parents United in Santa Clara County, California, was one of the first and is perhaps the best-known facility for the treatment of incest in the country. Parents United reports that since its inception in 1971, each year has been marked by a dramatic increase in the number of cases of incest brought to its attention ( Giarretto 1982). Other facilities, including the Sexual Assault Center at the Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Washington,* report a similar increase.

Dr. Michael Durfee circulated information gathered by the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services showing a considerable increase in suspected cases of child sexual abuse in Los Angeles County from 1983 to 1984, most particularly in the two year and younger age group ( Durfee 1984). Indeed, more suspected cases of sexual abuse were reported for babies of two years old than children of any other age up to sixteen years old, followed by three- and then four-year-olds.

____________________
*
L. Berliner. Personal communication, 1983.

-75-

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