Child sexual abuse by different classes and types of offender: Prevalence and trends from an Australian national survey

Ben Mathews, David Finkelhor, Rosana Pacella, James Graham Scott, Daryl J Higgins, Franziska Meinck, Holly E. Erskine, Hannah J Thomas, David Lawrence, Eva Malacova, Divna M. Haslam, Delphine Collin-Vezina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Little evidence exists about the prevalence of child sexual abuse (CSA) inflicted by different relational classes of perpetrators (e.g., parents; institutional adults; adolescents), and by individual types of perpetrators (e.g., fathers and male relatives; male teachers and male clergy; known and unknown adolescents).

To generate evidence of the prevalence of CSA by different perpetrators, and trends by victim gender and age group.

Participants and setting
The Australian Child Maltreatment Study collected information about CSA victimisation from a nationally-representative sample of 8503 individuals aged 16 and over.

We analysed data about 42 perpetrator types, collapsed into eight classes. We generated national prevalence estimates of CSA inflicted by each perpetrator class and individual perpetrator type, and compared results by victim gender and age group.

Australian CSA prevalence was 28.5%, with the following prevalence by perpetrator classes: other known adolescents (non-romantic): 10.0%; parents/caregivers in the home: 7.8%; other known adults: 7.5%; unknown adults: 4.9%; adolescents (current/former romantic partners): 2.5%; institutional caregivers: 2.0%; siblings: 1.6%; unknown adolescents: 1.4%. Women experienced more CSA by all perpetrator classes except institutional caregivers. Age group comparison showed significant declines in CSA by parents/caregivers, and other known adults; and increases in CSA by adolescents (current/former romantic partners). Individual perpetrator type comparison showed declines in CSA by fathers, male relatives living in the home, non-resident male relatives, and other known male adults; and increases in CSA by known male adolescents, current boyfriends, and former boyfriends.

CSA by adults has declined, indicating positive impacts of prevention efforts. However, CSA by adolescents has increased. Further declines in CSA by adults are required and possible. Targeted prevention of CSA by adolescents must be prioritised.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106562
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Early online date7 Dec 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • child sexual abuse
  • offenders or perpetrators - trends by perpetrator class
  • trends by individual perpetrator types
  • trends by victim gender - trends by victim age group


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