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Survey Finds Much Victimization of Children Goes Unreported

TUESDAY, Jan. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Nearly 60 percent of 10-to-17-year-olds surveyed in a new study say they were victims of violence, abuse or crime in the past year. However, fewer than half said that authorities ever learned about what happened.

Researchers led by David Finkelhor of the University of New Hampshire surveyed youths 10 to 17 years old and parents of children up to 9 years old in 2008. More than 4,500 children were involved in the survey.

More than 58 percent of the kids said they'd been victimized in the past year, including reports of bullying. Of these, just shy of 46 percent said authorities knew of at least one of the incidents.

Authorities were more likely to know about incidents that were more serious, such as certain cases of sexual assault, kidnapping and gang or group assaults, the survey found.

"However, even emotional bullying (51.5 percent), neglect (47.8 percent) and theft (46.8 percent) were often known to authorities," the authors wrote. Kids were less likely to report assaults by peers and siblings, dating violence, sexual exposure (such as flashing) and statutory rape.

"Childhood/adolescent abuse is frequently described as a hidden problem, and victimization studies regularly have shown that much abuse goes undisclosed," the study authors wrote. "The hidden nature of childhood victimization has multiple sources. Clearly, children and adolescents are easily intimidated by offenders and fear retaliation."

The authors added that, in many cases, young people and their families choose to deal with incidents "informally," fearing the consequences of police and court involvement.

The study did find, though, that authorities are more aware of victimization than during an earlier survey, conducted in 1992.

"However, the study also shows that a considerable portion of childhood/adolescent exposure to victimization is still unknown to authorities," the authors wrote. "The study suggests that outreach needs to be particularly enhanced toward boys, Hispanics and higher-income groups. It also suggests that disclosure promotion should be directed toward episodes that involve family members and peer perpetrators."

The study is published in the January issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has information on helping kids cope with violence.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, news release, Jan. 3, 2011

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