Thousands of Teen Girls Visit ERs, Report Sex Abuse

Feb 24, 2020

NPR – Minors who have suffered sexual abuse are now going to the ER at much higher rates compared to a decade ago, according to research from St. Louis University.

The national rate of ER admissions for child sex abuse nearly doubled between 2010 and 2016. At the same time, cases of confirmed child sex abuse in the U.S. have been declining since the 1990s, according to data from the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect.

“All the trend lines have shown the rates of child sexual abuse going down,” said Jesse Helton, a professor of social work at St. Louis University. “But for emergency departments, it’s been climbing.”

He described child sexual abuse as a serious public health issue that sometimes goes unnoticed.

“These are kids who are in your schools, your churches and your neighborhoods,” said Helton, a study co-author.

The research team analyzed a massive dataset of children and teenagers admitted to U.S. emergency rooms from 2010 to 2016.

Nearly 47,000 were admitted to the ER for confirmed sexual abuse over the six-year period. Of these, about 85% were girls, and almost half were adolescents ages 12 to 17.

The analysis also revealed some surprising trends.

The rate at which kids were admitted to the ER for sex abuse nearly doubled, from 6.93 admissions per 100,000 children in 2010 to 11.97 per 100,000 children in 2016.

To report child sexual abuse, call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453 or visit


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