It is a myth that strangers most often abuse
children. By far the vast majority of maltreated children
are victimized by those who are familiar to the child and
who have ready access to the child. Relatives of the child
are most often the perpetrators of child abuse. In particular,
parents make up the majority of child abuse perpetrators.
In 2008, more than 80% (81.1%) of perpetrators
were parents of the victim. Of those victims maltreated by
a parent, nearly 40 percent (38.8%) were maltreated by their
mother acting on her own; 18.1% were maltreated by fathers;
17.9% were maltreated by both parents; 6.0% of victims were
maltreated by the mother and another person; 0.9% of maltreated
children were victimized by the father and another person;
other relatives accounted for an additional 4.7%; unmarried
partners of parents accounted for 2.5% (USDHHS-ACF, 2010).
Courtesy of the Children's Bureau, Administration
for Children and Families, US Department of Health and Human
In 2008, 56.2 percent of the perpetrators were
women, 42.6 percent were men and 1.1 percent were of unknown
sex. Of the women who were perpetrators, more than 40 percent
(45.3%) were younger than 30 years of age, compared with one-third
of the men (35.2%). These proportions have remained consistent
for the past few years (USDHHS-ACF, 2010).
The racial distribution of perpetrators was
similar to the race of their victims. During 2008, nearly
one-half (47.8%) of perpetrators were White and one-fifth
(19.6%) were African-American. Approximately 20 percent (19.5%)
of perpetrators were Hispanic. These proportions also have
remained consistent for the past few years (USDHHS-ACF, 2010).
More than one-half (61.1%) of all perpetrators
were found to have neglected children. Approximately 10 percent
(10.0%) of perpetrators physically abused children and 6.8
percent sexually abused children. More than 13 percent (13.4%)
of all perpetrators were associated with more than one type
of maltreatment (USDHHS-ACF, 2010).
Perpetrators were analyzed by relationship to
their victims and type of maltreatment. For this analysis,
a perpetrator is counted once for each child for each report.
Therefore, the pattern of perpetrators closely mirrors the
pattern of maltreatment types. In other words, neglect represented
both the most frequent form of maltreatment and the greatest
number of perpetrators. Physical abuse ranked second, and
Overall, 6.8 percent of all perpetrators were
associated with sexually abusing a child. However, analyzing
the data by perpetrator category shows that of the perpetrators
who were categorized as friends and neighbors, 2,335 of 4,007
(58.3%) committed sexual abuse. Of the perpetrators who were
categorized as "other," 13,056 of 31,858 (41.0%) committed
sexual abuse, and of the perpetrators who were categorized
as other professionals, 349 of 967 (36.1%) committed sexual
abuse (USDHHS-ACF, 2010).
In Iowa in 2006 there were 19,695 substantiated
perpetrators of child maltreatment, of these 14,355 were the
parents of the child(USDHHS-ACF, 2008).
Continue to Dos
and Don'ts Regarding Talking with Children about Possible
Abuse or Maltreatment