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Child Abuse Negl. 1999 Jun;23(6):559-69.

Factors related to the reporting of childhood rape.

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National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston 29425, USA.



The aim of this study was to examine whether there would be differences in reported versus unreported cases of childhood rape on incident characteristics including life threat, physical injury, identity of the perpetrator, frequency of assault(s), and rates of posttraumatic stress disorder or major depression.


In a telephone interview, a national probability sample of 4,008 (weighted) adult women was screened for a history of completed rape in childhood. Respondents were also assessed for DSM-III-R diagnoses of major depressive episode and/or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Three hundred forty-one (8.5%) of these women were victims of at least one rape prior to the age of 18, for a total of 437 completed rapes. Of these 437 rape incidents, 52 (11.9%) were reported to the police or other authorities.


Significant differences were obtained between reported versus nonreported cases on incident characteristics, including life threat, physical injury, identity of the perpetrator. Reported cases were more likely to involve life threat and/or physical injury, and were more likely to have been committed by a stranger than nonreported cases. No significant differences between reported and nonreported cases were found concerning whether the rape involved a single incident versus series of events, or rates of PTSD or major depression.


Findings suggest that different characteristics are associated with reported versus unreported cases of childhood rape. Since few cases of childhood rape are actually reported to the authorities, it appears that we may be missing valuable information. Implications for research and clinical intervention are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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