One of the major achievements of the past quarter century has been the growing awareness of the prevalence and damaging psychological consequences of the sexual abuse of children. State child protection authorities substantiated 63,527 cases that involved childhood sexual abuse in 2010, the last year for which figures are available. A survey by the Centers for Disease Control of more than 17,000 adult Kaiser-network members, generally well educated and middle class, found that 16 percent of men and 25 percent of women said they had experienced childhood sexual abuse. And yet, it is remarkable how recently the sexual abuse of children was not taken seriously. Not until 1974, when Congress passed the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, were states required to establish reporting requirements in suspected cases.Read the rest of Placing childhood sexual abuse in historical perspective.
Steven Mintz is a historian and director of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences Teaching Center at Columbia University. He is the author of 13 books, including Huck's Raft: A History of American Childhood and Domestic Revolutions: A Social History of American Family Life. The past president of the Society for the History of Children and Youth, he has also chaired the Council on Contemporary Families and served as president of H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online.