Prevalence of child abuse

It is difficult to determine exactly how many children are abused and neglected each year. Several state and national studies have been conducted, but because of the way the data was collected the results can be misleading and may not present an entirely accurate picture. For instance, we know that most research is based on cases of child abuse and neglect that have been substantiated by child protective services agencies, agencies which, due to their limited resources, are usually only able intervene in cases deemed to be of serious concern. We also know that many cases of abuse and neglect are never even reported. However, the most current data report that:

  • In 2011, over three million reports of child abuse and neglect were made in the U.S. 
  • Approximately 681,000 children were found to have been victims of abuse or neglect.
  • Four children die in the United States each day from abuse or neglect.

In 2011, in Wisconsin, there were:

  • 41,146 reports of child abuse
  • 1,052 substantiated cases of physical abuse
  • 1,380 substantiated cases of sexual abuse
  • 55 substantiated cases of emotional abuse
  • 2,723 substantiated cases of child neglect
  • 32 substantiated cases of a child having died because of child abuse or neglect
  • Note: Majority of the children (69%) who died were under the age of 1 year
Regardless of what the data says, we believe that one case of child abuse is one case too many.

Download the Annual Report to the Governor and Legislature on Wisconsin Child Abuse and Neglect. Wisconsin Statutes, Section 48.981(9), Annual Report (Reporting Data for Calendar Year 2011) Office of Policy, Evaluation and Planning; Division of Children and Family Services, Department of Health and Family Services.