The Economic Burden of Child Sexual Abuse is in the Billions Interview with:

Dr. Xiangming Fang, PhD Associate professor of Health Management and Policy School of Public Health Georgia State University

Dr. Xiangming Fang

Dr. Xiangming Fang, PhD
Associate professor of Health Management and Policy
School of Public Health
Georgia State University What is the background for this study?

Response: Child sexual abuse is a serious public health problem in the United States. The estimated prevalence rates of exposure to child sexual abuse by 18 years old are 26.6 percent for U.S. girls and 5.1 percent for U.S. boys. The effects of child sexual abuse include increased risk for development of severe mental, physical and behavioral health disorders; sexually transmitted diseases; self-inflicted injury, substance abuse and violence; and subsequent victimization and criminal offending. What are the main findings? 

Response: Our study provided an estimate of the U.S. economic impact of child sexual abuse. Costs of child sexual abuse were measured from the societal perspective and include health care costs, productivity losses, child welfare costs, violence/crime costs, special education costs, and suicide death costs. Estimating 20 new cases of fatal and 40,387 new substantiated cases of nonfatal child sexual abuse that occurred in 2015, the lifetime economic burden of child sexual abuse is approximately $9.3 billion, the lifetime cost for victims of fatal child sexual abuse per female and male victim is on average $1,128,334 and $1,482,933, respectively, and the average lifetime cost for victims of nonfatal child sexual abuse is of $282,734 per female victim. There was insufficient information on productivity losses for male victims, which contributed to a lower estimated lifetime cost of $74,691. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Our study reveals that the economic burden of child sexual abuse is substantial and signifies recognition that reducing children’s vulnerability will positively and directly impact the nation’s economic and social well-being and development. We hope our research will bring attention to the need for increased prevention efforts for child sexual abuse. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: One limitation of our study was our inability to identify sufficient high quality data on the economic impact of nonfatal child sexual abuse on male victims. The absence of high quality data highlights the need for more research on male victims. 

Authors report no conflicts of interest


Elizabeth J. Letourneau, Derek S. Brown, Xiangming Fang, Ahmed Hassan, James A. Mercy. The economic burden of child sexual abuse in the United States. Child Abuse & Neglect, 2018; 79: 413 DOI: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2018.02.020 

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Last Updated on April 2, 2018 by Marie Benz MD FAAD