Public opinion and knowledge about childhood sexual abuse in a rural community

James F. Calvert, Michelle Munsie-Benson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Objectives: To explore the knowledge and attitudes of the general public about child sexual abuse (CSA) through a population-based survey. Method: A survey was completed by 246 respondents living in Klamath Falls, a small city in rural eastern Oregon. Specific areas of inquiry included who respondents believed were likely perpetrators of CSA, when a child was most likely to disclose sexual abuse, whether respondents believed that children would be truthful, reasons a child might not acknowledge that they had been sexually abused, what respondents knew about how CSA could be diagnosed, and what attitudes respondents thought that a sexually abused child might have towards the perpetrators of their abuse. Finally, respondents were asked how they would report a suspected case of CSA and about their receptivity to personal safety training to prevent CSA. Results: While significant proportions of respondents were fairly knowledgeable about CSA, gaps in knowledge were found in all age groups and ethnic groups. Groups with the most significant knowledge deficits about CSA included men, unmarried respondents, respondents who had not had children, respondents in younger age groups, respondents of Latino descent, and respondents with low incomes or low education. Respondents were most likely to report CSA to their physician or the police. There is community interest in training about CSA and its prevention. Conclusion: These data indicate that significant deficits as well as strengths in knowledge about CSA exist in this rural community, and identify populations to which community education about CSA could be directed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)671-682
Number of pages12
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Child sexual abuse
  • Family practice
  • Patient education
  • Public opinion
  • Rural health care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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