Is it really ONE in FIVE?

The estimate figure ONE in FIVE emerges from the combination of the results from the various studies undertaken by research teams in many European countries, statistics advanced by Unicef, the International Labour Organisation and the World Health Organisation.

It is a regional figure at European level and doesn’t exclude that prevalence in individual countries may be bigger or smaller. Research in countries outside Europe, like in the United States and Canada, seems to reveal the similar level of prevalence.

Today, one of the difficulties is to have a clear picture of the actual situation as:

• sexual violence remains widely underreported
• the studies differ in scope, use different methodologies and definitions
• interviewing children raises ethical issues
• the professionals working with and for children (e.g. in institutions) lack procedural guidelines and tools to report sexual violence against children
• there is a lack of effective tools and means to be informed by children who are challenged by difficulties in expressing themselves such as very young children, children with mental disabilities, severely traumatised children etc.
• many studies are based on interviews with adults or young adults about their childhood experience of abuse
• not enough effort is put in trying to obtain comprehensive, disaggregated and comparable data.

The figure ONE in FIVE refers to all forms of sexual violence against children: sexual abuse, pedopornography, solicitation of children through Internet, child prostitution and corruption of children.

As most research available refers only to sexual abuse involving physical contact, the figure ONE in FIVE may actually be underestimating the increasing problems of solicitation and exposure of children to pornographic material through Internet.

For more information on available research, consult:

Kevin Lalor & Rosaleen McElvaney: "Overview of the nature and extend of child sexual abuse in Europe" in Protecting children from sexual violence - A comprehensive approach. Council of Europe (2010)

Child sexual abuse in Europe, Council of Europe 2003

From “ONE in FIVE” to “NONE of FIVE”: why do we need to focus on data?