Types of Victimization - Polyvictimization (2023)


Child abuse, or child maltreatment, is defined as any willful or threatened act that results in any physical, mental, or sexual injury or harm, causing or potentially causing the physical, mental, or emotional health to be significantly impaired. Abuse of a child includes acts or omissions.

Neglect occurs when a child is deprived of or is allowed to be deprived of necessary food, clothing, shelter, or medical treatment, a child is permitted to live in an environment when such deprivation or environment causes the child’s physical, mental, or emotional health to be significantly impaired or to be in danger of being significantly impaired.

The lifetime impact of child abuse and neglect points to the importance of primary prevention and the critical role that schools can play as a vehicle for child abuse prevention education directed to children and families. Adult survivors of childhood abuse are more likely to experience mental health difficulties, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD, eating disorders, and substance use disorders. (Source)

Child Maltreatment Statistics

  • At least 1 in 7 children in the US has experienced child abuse and/or neglect in the past year. An estimated 4.3 million referrals involving approximately 7.8 million children were received by CPS agencies in the US during the Federal fiscal year 2018. (Source)
  • Neglect is the most common form of child abuse, followed by physical abuse, sexual abuse, and psychological abuse.
  • Of these referrals, 60.9% were accepted for a response by CPS agencies.
  • In 2018, American Indian or Alaska Native children have the highest rate of victimization (15.2 per 1,000 children) and African American children have the second-highest rate (14 per 1,000 children). (Source)

As in previous years, neglect was overwhelmingly the most common form of child maltreatment. CPS investigations determined the following:

Types of Victimization - Polyvictimization (1)

Sex and Race of Victims

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Perpetrator Relationship to Victim for Maltreatment

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“Other” category includes: Childcare provider, legal guardian, foster parent, friends and neighbors, other professionals, other relatives, unmarried partner of a parent, group home staff, unknown perpetrator

Age of victims rate per 1,000

Under the age of 3 = 28.7% of the victims reported in 2018
<1 year old 26.7 per 1,000
1 year old 11.8 per 1,000
2 years old 11.0 per 1,000
3 years old 10.3 per 1,000
4 years old 9.8 per 1,000
5 – 10 years = 52.8 per 1,000
11 – 13 years = 21.1 per 1,000
14 – 17 years = 22.4 per 1,000

Source for US Statistics: Child Maltreatment 2018, a report based on data submissions by State child protective services (CPS) agencies for Federal fiscal year (FFY) 2018. The data were collected and analyzed through the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS), which is supported by the Children’s Bureau: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/report/child-maltreatment-2018


Bullying is defined as the repeated acts of hostility or aggression where there is a real or perceived imbalance of power and the victim cannot defend himself or herself. Bullying must meet three criteria to meet the legal definition:

  • R – it must be repeated behavior
  • I – with the intent to harm
  • P – and there must be an imbalance of power (real or perceived)

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Cyberbullying is repeated, threatening, or harassing behavior that occurs using technology, like cell phones and the Internet. Cyberbullying can include:

  • Posting fake information or spreading rumors
  • Setting up fake websites or profiles
  • Gaining someone’s trust to impersonate them and post their private information online
  • Threats, taunts, or name-calling via text, instant messaging, or email
  • Persistent, harassing text messages, calls, or emails
  • Derogatory or defaming comments posted online
  • Online fighting using crude language
  • Distribution of pictures/video usually captured by cell phone cameras
  • Instances of physical bullying recorded and posted online.

Bullying Statistics

  • 1 out of 5 children is bullied. (Source)
  • 160,000 kids stay home from school every day because of fear of bullying according to the CDC. (Source)
  • 60% of kids characterized as bullies in 6th through 9th grades had at least one criminal conviction by age 24. (Source)
  • Bullying victims are between 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims, according to studies by Yale University. (Source)
  • 20.2% of high school students reported they had been bullied at school (Source)
  • 70.6% of young people say they have seen bullying in their schools (Source) and 70.4% of school staff have seen bullying. (Source)
  • A higher percentage of male than of female students report being physically bullied (6% vs. 4%), whereas a higher percentage of female than of male students reported being the subjects of rumors (18% vs. 9%) and being excluded from activities on purpose (7% vs. 4%). (Source)
  • When bystanders intervene, bullying stops within 10 seconds 57% of the time. (Source)
  • In one large study, about 49% of children in grades 4-12 reported being bullied by other students at school at least once during the past month, whereas 30.8% reported bullying others during that time.(Source)
  • Only about 20 to 30% of students who are bullied notify adults about the bullying.(Source)
  • School-based bullying prevention programs decrease bullying by up to 25%. (Source)

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Cyberbullying Statistics

  • One million children were harassed, threatened, or subjected to other forms of cyberbullying on Facebook during the past year. (Source)
  • Over 50% of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyberbullying. (Source)
  • A 2018 survey revealed that 59% of U.S. teens have experienced cyberbullying online or via cellphone. (Source)
  • Girls are 3 times more likely to be cyberbullied than boys. (Source)
  • Over 50% of youth do not tell their parents when cyberbullying occurs. (Source)


Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a type of sexual abuse that can occur in person or online when a child is given things like gifts, drugs, money, status, and affection, in exchange for sexual activities.

Online sexual exploitation can include grooming, sexual discussions, live streaming, producing and distributing child sexual abuse material, coercion and blackmail.

Child Sexual Exploitation Statistics:

  • 14% of seventh- through ninth-grade students reported they had communicated with someone online about sexual things; 11% of students reported they had been asked to talk about sexual things online; 8% have been exposed to nude pictures and 7% were also asked for nude pictures of themselves online. (Source)

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  • A study published in 2018 revealed that one in nine youth Internet users experience online sexual solicitation such as being asked for nude or sexually explicit photographs of themselves. (Source)
  • 40% of people charged with child pornography also sexually abuse children. (Source)
  • 1 in 5 children who use computer chatrooms has been approached over the Internet by predators. (Source)
  • 1 in 5 youth reported being sexually solicited or approached in the last year. Only 40% of the youth who received a sexual solicitation told a parent. (Source)
  • According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, child sexual abuse material, also known as child pornography, reports increased from about 3 million last year (2019) to 7.7 million in 2020.

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According to Polaris, human trafficking is the business of stealing freedom for profit. In some cases, traffickers trick, defraud or physically force victims into selling sex. In others, victims are lied to, assaulted, threatened or manipulated into working under inhumane, illegal or otherwise unacceptable conditions.

It is a multi-billion dollar criminal industry that denies freedom to 24.9 million people around the world.

Sex traffickingis the crime of using force, fraud or coercion to induce another individualto sell sex. Common types include escort services, pornography, illicit massage businesses, brothels, and outdoor solicitation.

Labor traffickingis the crime of using force, fraud or coercion to induce another individual to work or provide service. Common types include agriculture, domestic work, restaurants, cleaning services, and carnivals.

Child Trafficking is the illegal recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of achild under the age of 18, typically for the purposes of forced labor or sexual exploitation.

Child Trafficking Statistics:

  • The average age a child is lured into the sex trade industry in the U.S. is 15 years old. (Source)
  • At any given time in 2016, an estimated40 million people were victims of trafficking. (Source)
  • The U.S. Department of State estimates that 18,000 to 20,000 people are trafficked into the United States each year. (Source)
  • According to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, human trafficking generates an estimated $9.5 billion in annual revenue. (Source)
  • 70-90% of child trafficking victims were sexually abused in a non-commercial manner first. (Source)Types of Victimization - Polyvictimization (9)
  • 1 in 6 of the 18,500 runaways reporting missing in 2016 were likely sex trafficking victims. (Source)
  • Studies consistently reportthat 50-90% of child sex trafficking victims have been involved inthe child welfare system. (Source)
  • A study conducted by Covenant House New York, a shelter and service provider for youth, found that 1/5 of the homeless youth they surveyed in the U.S. and Canada were victims of human trafficking. (Source)


Domestic violence, also known as Intimate Partner Violence, includes controlling, demeaning, and abusive behaviors between intimate partners. Such behaviors may include threats, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and/or physical violence. Victimization of this type occurs across the lifespan, from dating violence to elderly couples, in both heterosexual and same-sex relationships. Although both men and women experience domestic violence, approximately ¼ of U.S. women report being a victim some time in their lives.

  • 1 in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year, and 90% of these children are eyewitnesses to this violence.
  • Studies indicate that children who witness domestic violence are at risk for maladaptive responses in one or more of the following areas of functioning: (a) behavioral, (b) emotional, (c) social, (d) cognitive, and (e) physical.

According to Collins (1999) and Tjaden & Thoennes (2000), between 25% and 31% of U.S. women report having been a victim of domestic violence at some point in their lives. Although the majority of victims of domestic violence are women, it is important to acknowledge that men are also victims of domestic violence, and that in some situations both partners may engage in violent behavior.

For more information about the impact of domestic violence on children, please visit the National Child Traumatic Stress Network website.


According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, 1 out of every 4 children attending school has been exposed to a traumatic event that can affect learning or behavior. In the case of school violence, that experience could range from fights to school shootings, and many children have been victims of serious violent crimes, either at school or on their way to and from school.

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has a robust library of resources available for school personnel. Visit their site to learn more.


Community violence includes intentional acts of public, interpersonal violence not committed by persons related to or close to the victim. Bullying, gang fights, and shootings are often included in this type of victimization. These events typically happen without warning, and consequences often include fears, phobias, anxiety, and panic for victims.

For additional information about community and gang violence and its impact on children, visit the National Child Traumatic Stress Network website.

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