Child Abuse Identification and Reporting:
Iowa Training for Mandatory Reporters

Perpetrators of Child Abuse


Who Are the Mandated Reporters?

Abuse and Neglect/Maltreatment Have Many Presentations

The Disturbing Statistics

Legal Definitions Related to Child Maltreatment

Recognizing Child Abuse

Risk Factors Contributing to Child Abuse and Maltreatment

Protective Factors for Child Abuse and Maltreatment

The Consequences of Child Abuse

Perpetrators of Child Abuse

Dos and Don'ts Regarding Talking with Children about Possible Abuse or Maltreatment

Reporting Child Abuse and Maltreatment

After the Assessment Process

Child Abuse Prevention Services

Safe Haven for Newborns--Overview of the Safe Haven Act




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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 Services (2010)

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 so on.

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).

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