A new study shows that the annual economic impact of child sexual abuse in the United States exceeds $9 billion. This staggering number and the tragic conditions leading to it highlight the need for one thing:
In the study, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that the $9.3 billion annual economic cost of child sexual abuse included costs associated with health care, child welfare, special education, violence and crime, suicide and survivor productivity losses. The Johns Hopkins researchers stressed that the estimate of the economic burden of child sexual abuse in the U.S. “is a critical step for drawing attention to the need for more robust prevention efforts” that include increased federal funding of child sexual abuse prevention research.
“Most people appreciate the immense mental and physical health toll of child sexual abuse on victims, but that knowledge has been insufficient to prompt serious investment in primary prevention efforts,” said study author Elizabeth J. Letourneau, PhD, a professor at the Bloomberg School’s Department of Mental Health and director of the Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse. “I hope that presenting a credible estimate of the fiscal toll of child sexual abuse will inspire policymakers to designate resources toward the development, evaluation and dissemination of prevention efforts that protect children from experiencing their first abuse, rather than focusing almost solely on the after-the-fact approaches.”
We cannot overstate how much we agree with that.
But getting policymakers to focus on and prioritize child sexual abuse prevention requires devotion and hard work from all of us. We as a society must prioritize prevention – really make it one of our top goals – and then get to work on it. We need to educate ourselves and each other, become trained in areas such as recognizing grooming behavior, and dedicate our time and resources to prevention. That includes talking to our policymakers at the state and federal level, getting them to take public stances on child sexual abuse prevention policy proposals and electing those who are committed to it. It means unseating those who aren’t.
Keep this in mind as Election Day approaches.
If you are a victim of sexual abuse, there are resources available to help you. In Minnesota, advocacy programs in your area are just a call away and are dedicated to helping survivors and those traumatized by unhealthy relationships seek safety and be safe. Check www.rapehelpmn.org/find-help/ for an advocacy program in your area. Further, nationally, you can seek help through the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (“RAINN”) https://www.rainn.org/get-help, or call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at (800) 656-4673.