Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Reflections on Emotional Abuse Statistics

August 2, 2011

I found some statistics that measured the scope of emotional abuse and was glad to discover two things.  One, these statistics exist.  Two, emotionally abused and neglected children like me were finally being removed from the home rather than simply left to suffer in silence and captivity.  In 2006, 1.25 million reports of child abuse or neglect were filed, representing 1 out of every 58 children in the United States.  Interestingly, reports of neglect were more common than reports of abuse.  61.7% of reports concerned child neglect, as compared to just 44% concerning child abuse.  I would have expected to see the reverse result, namely that child abuse was more common than child neglect.  Also the numbers add up to 105.7%, which suggests that 5.7% of the reports mentioned both abuse and neglect.

553,300 kids were reported as abused in 2006.  148,500, or  26.8% of the abused kids were reported as having suffered emotional abuse.  I could immediately see myself in these statistics, as one of the more than ¼ of abused kids who suffered emotional abuse.  Once again, when you add up reports of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse together, you come to a sum much greater than 553,300.   The three forms of abuse together contain 608,500 reports.  Thus, you have at least 55,200 children who suffered more than one form of abuse – it could have been physical and emotional, physical and sexual, or emotional and sexual.  All three of these combinations are terrifying and horrifying.   

When you look at the cases of neglect, you start with 771,700 kids.  You find that emotional neglect cases make up 193,400 reports, or 25% of cases.  Interestingly, most cases of neglect involved one form of neglect: physical, emotional, or educational.  Educational neglect made up 46.7%, or nearly half of the cases of neglect. 

One final thought is that out of the 1.25 million cases of abuse and neglect reported in 2006, 12% represented the emotional abuse that I have suffered.  I am glad to have some statistics which help give us some sense of the scope and scale of the emotional abuse that I suffered as a child.  Emotional abuse and neglect together make up 341,900 cases, or 27% of all cases reported. 

Older statistics from 1999 give us very different figures.  First of all, the number of reported child abuse cases in 1999, or 3.244 million, was nearly 3 times as many as the number of abused kids reported in 2006, or 1.25 million.  I find it really hard to believe that the rate of child abuse fell by 61% in just 7 years from 1999 to 2006.  I also really doubt that the number of annually abused kids fell from 3.244 million in 1999 to 1.25 million in 2006.  When we consider that a large proportion of abuse cases involve young children under the age of 4 and infants under one year old, this drastic drop in such a short time makes me suspicious.  It frankly makes me wonder if people have just stopped reporting abuse more often than in the past.

Also in the 1996 reports, emotional abuse made up a much smaller proportion of the reported and substantiated cases than in 2006.  In 2006, emotional abuse made up 12% of total cases, compared with just 4% of reported cases and 3% of substantiated cases in 1996.  I am not sure why this variation would occur.

Interestingly rates of emotional abuse dramatically among reported cases varied in the English-speaking countries of Canada, England, Australia, and the United States.  A 2001 study of 135,000 child abuse cases in Canada found that a staggering 60% of cases were for emotional abuse.  It is really hard to imagine that emotional abuse was the primary complaint in over half the child abuse cases in Canada in a 3 month period 2001.  By comparison, in 2006, 27% of reported child abuse cases in the U.S. involved emotional abuse.  Also, in 1996, emotional abuse accounted for 15% of the cases in 43 U.S. states.  The rate of emotional abuse among cases in Australia was nearly twice as high as in England.  In 1997, 31% of substantiated child abuse cases involved emotional abuse, compared to just 15% of reported cases in England. 

Other statistics give us a better idea of the prevalence of emotional abuse in the English-speaking world.  41% of surveyed adolescents in a 1995 survey in Ontario said they had suffered emotional abuse at home.  A 1995 survey of 1,000 women aged 15 and older at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, found that 36% had experienced emotional abuse in their childhood.  A similar proportion of women who had been emotionally abused in their childhood also had been emotionally abused in a relationship within the last five years.  36% had been emotionally abused at home, compared to 39% who had been emotionally abused by a partner in the past five years.   Thus, women who grow up in emotionally abusive homes like mine are at greater risk for ending up in emotionally abusive relationships than women who come from loving and stable homes.  I know that I am at risk for being a victim of emotional abuse in a romantic relationship by virtue of my history as a survivor of horrendous emotional abuse as a child.  So I avoid dating even though I have ended many emotionally abusive relationships very early on as I am quite aware of what the signs for emotional abuse and control in a relationship are.  For me the risks of ending up in an emotionally abusive relationship significantly outweigh the benefits of  finding a loving marriage. 

It is frankly staggering and appalling to contemplate the fact that 41% of adolescents suffered emotional abuse in Ontario in 1995.  That is nearly half of all teenagers.  Emotional abuse is much more prevalent than I would have assumed.  And you have to wonder why the rates of emotional child abuse are so high.  The consequences of emotional child abuse are devastating, as you can see clearly in my case.  

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