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J Adolesc Health. 2014 Mar;54(3):304-311.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2013.08.020. Epub 2013 Oct 29.

Child sexual abuse revisited: a population-based cross-sectional study among Swiss adolescents.

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  • 1Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland. Electronic address:
  • 2Department of Psychosomatics and Psychiatry, University Children's Hospital Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.
  • 3Psychiatric Services of the Canton of St. Gallen-North, Wil, Switzerland.
  • 4Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.
  • 5Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University Hospital Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.



Child sexual abuse (CSA) is one of the most serious public health problems among children and adolescents, owing to its widespread prevalence and serious health consequences. The present study aimed to assess the prevalence of, and characteristics and circumstances associated with, CSA.


An epidemiological survey was conducted on a nationally representative sample of 6,787 ninth-grade students (15.5 ± .66 years of age) in Switzerland. Self-reported computer-assisted questionnaires were administered between September 2009 and May 2010. Various forms of sexual victimization were assessed using the newly developed Child Sexual Abuse Questionnaire.


Overall, 40.2% and 17.2% of girls and boys, respectively, reported having experienced at least one type of CSA event. Lifetime prevalence rates were 35.1% and 14.9%, respectively, for CSA without physical contact, 14.9% and 4.8% for CSA with physical contact without penetration, and 2.5% and .6% for CSA with penetration among girls and boys. The most frequently experienced event was sexual harassment via the Internet. More than half of female victims and more than 70% of male victims reported having been abused by juvenile perpetrators. Depending on the specific event, only 44.4%-58.4% of female victims and 5.8%-38% of male victims disclosed CSA, mostly to peers.


The present study confirms the widespread prevalence of CSA. The high prevalence of CSA via the Internet and the frequent reports of juvenile perpetrators suggest emerging trends in CSA. Low disclosure rates, especially among male victims, and reluctance to disclose events to family members and officials may impede timely intervention.

Copyright © 2014 Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Adolescents; Child sexual abuse; Epidemiology; Prevalence; Survey

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