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Question #89984 posted on 07/09/2017 11:08 p.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

I see some billboards on the freeway that say that 1/5 kids in Utah are sexually abused at some point. I find that really hard to believe. Is that true? I have to believe that they're lying with statistics in some way, but don't know enough about the specifics of their data to know what they're really trying to say.

Can you boil down the assumptions that their data is making and tell me what that 1/5 really means? If it helps, the organization is pcautah.org.



Dear you,

I wasn't able to find the source of those exact statistics, although this Deseret News article does corroborate the general range (it says one in four girls and one in eight boys will be sexually abused).

When compiling statistics like this, the main things that affect the outcome are: (1) What is defined as sexual abuse (statutory rape, luring children online, and molesting young children are examples of crimes that could contribute to this statistics), (2) How was the data collected (if the sample isn't representative, extrapolating it to the population may be inaccurate), and (3) If the data uses survey information rather than information reported to legal resources (which typically under-represent the rate of abuse), did the respondents answer accurately? (This can be affected by whether the question was worded clearly, whether respondents were in denial about their own abuse, etc.)

Personally, I do find this statistic to be credible. It's in line with other reports I've heard of in other states and from other groups. Also, I would say about half of my mission companions had experienced some type of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, most of which occurred before they were 18. This is anecdotal, but it confirms to me that abuse happens to normal people who may not "seem like" they'd been abused. Sexual abuse is typically something people don't talk about with everyone, and it's probable that you know people who have been abused, but haven't felt the need to disclose that to you.