Criminal consequences of childhood sexual victimization

C P Widom, M A Ames
Child Abuse & Neglect 1994, 18 (4): 303-18
Using a prospective cohorts design, we assess the long-term criminal consequences of childhood sexual abuse through an examination of official criminal histories for a large sample of validated cases of childhood sexual abuse, compared to cases of physical abuse and neglect and a control group matched for age, race, sex, and approximate family socioeconomic status. Compared to other types of abuse and neglect, early childhood sexual abuse does not uniquely increase an individual's risk for later delinquent and adult criminal behavior. Childhood sexual abuse victims were at increased risk of arrest as a juvenile for being a runaway. As adults, child sexual abuse victims were at higher risk of arrest for sex crimes than controls, as were victims of physical abuse and neglect. Childhood sexual abuse victims were more likely to be arrested for prostitution as adults than other abuse and neglect victims and controls, regardless of gender. However, there was no support for a direct relationship among child sexual abuse, arrests for running away in adolescence, and adult arrests for prostitution. The findings also suggest an association for males between physical abuse and arrests for violent sex crimes (rape and/or sodomy). Caution is needed in interpreting these findings because of exclusive reliance on official record data and the possible impact of agency intervention.

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