The cost of child sexual abuse
In 2016-17, there was an estimated 489,194 cases of violence against children and young people aged 0-24 in Australia. In 2016-17, the estimated annual burden of violence against children and young people in Australia was $34.2 billion; the lifetime cost was $78.4 billion (Deloitte Access Economics, 2019).
A recent study of the cost of child sexual abuse in the United States considered health care costs, productivity losses, child welfare costs, violence/crime costs, special education costs and suicide death costs. This study estimated the lifetime economic burden of child sexual abuse at approximately $9.3 billion (2015 dollars). The lifetime costs for victims of fatal child sexual abuse averaged $1,128,334 per female and $1,482,933 per male victim, and the average lifetime cost of nonfatal child sexual abuse was $282,734 per female victim (insufficient information on productivity losses for males led to a lower average lifetime cost of $74,691 per male victim) (Letourneau, Brown, Fang, Hassan & Mercy, 2018).
Most recent estimates of the cost of child maltreatment in the UK have shown that the average lifetime cost of non-fatal child maltreatment per victim is £89,930, with the greatest contributors to these costs being social care costs, short-term health-related costs, and reduced employment costs. The estimate of lifetime cost per death from child maltreatment was £940,758, consisting of health care costs and lost productivity costs (Conti, Morris, Melnychuk & Pizzo, 2017).
A recent cost of illness study undertaken to examine the costs of child maltreatment in Australia found a best estimate total lifetime cost for incident cases of child maltreatment in 2012-13 of $9.3 billion ($176,437 per child maltreated), with a lower bound of $5.8 billion (McCarthy et al., 2016).
Pegasus Economics has estimated that if the impacts of child sexual, emotional and physical abuse in Australia (on an estimated 3.7 million adults) are adequately addressed through timely and comprehensive intervention, the combined budget position of Federal, State and Territory Governments could be improved by a minimum of $6.8 billion annually (Kezelman, Hossack, Stavropoulos & Burley, 2015).
A UK-based study that has explored the costs of child sexual abuse as distinct from other forms of child abuse was produced by the NSPCC in 2014. This study analysed data on the prevalence of child sexual abuse in the UK, the likelihood of adverse outcomes and service usage among victims and survivors of child sexual abuse, and the unit costs of various types of service provision. It was estimated that child sexual abuse costs the UK around £3 billion a year (2012/13 costs). Of this total estimated cost, the majority – around £2.7 billion – was linked to lost labour market productivity. The remainder – around £424 million – was primarily made up of costs resulting from the provision of healthcare, the criminal justice system and child social services (Saied-Tessier, 2014).
A study by Fang and colleagues (2012) estimated the economic burden from child maltreatment in the US. This study estimated a total lifetime economic burden from new cases of child maltreatment occurring in one year at $124 billion (in 2010 dollars, including both fatal and non-fatal cases).
A report released by the Australian Childhood Foundation, along with Monash University and Access Economics in 2008, described two approaches to calculating costs associated with child abuse and neglect. The first, which estimated the cost incurred by the Australian community associated with children who were abused or neglected in 2007, showed that the best estimate of the actual cost of child abuse incurred in that year was $10.7 billion, and as high as $30.1 billion. The second, which estimated the future costs to the community which would be incurred over a lifetime for the children abused or neglected for the first time in 2007, showed that the projected cost of child abuse and neglect was $13.7 billion, and as high as $38.7 billion (Taylor, Moore, Pezzullo, Tucci, Goddard, & De Bortoli, 2008).
An earlier study examining the costs associated with child abuse and neglect in the US estimated total annual costs at $103.8 billion (in 2007 dollars), with the largest cost associated with lost productivity (32%), followed by adult criminality (27%) (Wang & Holton, 2007).
Conti, G., Morris, S., Melnychuk, M., & Pizzo, E. (2017). The economic costs of child maltreatment in the UK: A preliminary study. NSPCC.
Deloitte Access Economics (2019). The economic cost of violence against children and young people. Canberra: Deloitte Access Economics.
Fang, X., Brown, D.S., Florence, C.S., & Mercy, J.A. (2012). The economic burden of child maltreatment in the United States and implications for prevention. Child Abuse and Neglect, 36, 156–165.
Kezelman, C., Hossack, N., Stavropoulos, P. & Burley, P. (2015). The cost of unresolved childhood trauma and abuse in adults in Australia. Sydney: Adults Surviving Child Abuse and Pegasus Economics.
Letourneau, E.J., Brown, D.S., Fang, X., Hassan, A., & Mercy, J.A. (2018). The economic burden of child sexual abuse in the United States. Child Abuse & Neglect, 79, 413-422.
McCarthy, M.M., Taylor, P., Norman, R.E., Pezzullo, L., Tucci, J., & Goddard, C. (2016). The lifetime economic and social costs of child maltreatment in Australia. Children and Youth Services Review, 71, 217-226.
Saied-Tessier, A. (2014). Estimating the costs of child sexual abuse in the UK. NSPCC.
Taylor, P., Moore, P., Pezzullo, L., Tucci, J., Goddard, C. and De Bortoli, L. (2008). The cost of child abuse in Australia. Australian Childhood Foundation and Child Abuse Prevention Research Australia: Melbourne.
Wang, C.T., & Holton, J. (2007). Total estimated cost of child abuse and neglect in the United States. Prevent Child Abuse America.