Sexual Abuse in Canadian Aboriginal Communities: A Broad Review of Conflicting Evidence






Child sexual abuse (CSA), a prevalent problem across cultures and coun-tries, threatens the well-being of victims, their families, and communities. Reports on the rates of CSA among Aboriginal people in Canada differ on the extent of this problem in the communities, with some studies reporting epidemic rates of sexual exploitation of Aboriginal children. Careful analysis and interpretation is required to more accurately capture the scope of CSA in Canadian Aboriginal communities. This broad review of evidence on CSA clearly shows the striking differences between adult reports of CSA experiences that occurred many years or decades ago and current cases of children and youth investigated for CSA. On one hand, after discarding misquoted research and studies conducted with at-risk populations, we find an estimate of 25–50% CSA prevalence rate in Aboriginal adults surveyed across Canada in the past 20 years. Based on the review of this literature, CSA seems to be a prevalent social problem in both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal adults, although research indicates the former group is more at risk than the latter. On the other hand, recent cases investigated by the Canadian child protection services show CSA is a less common problem for Aboriginal children and youth (0.53 by 1000) than for their non-Aboriginal counterparts (0.62 by 1000). Given that most CSA cases, across all cultures, never come to the attention of the authorities, the striking difference be-tween current CSA rates among children and youth and adult reports of CSA experiences raises several critical questions. Are Aboriginal children experiencing significantly lower rates of sexual abuse than their parents, or is sexual abuse being dramatically underreported both for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children? Exploring both sides of this problem increases our understanding of CSA in Aboriginal communities and brings critical new light to this social problem. Future directions for research are proposed to generate sound statistical data that will provide the basis for developing appropriate policies, legislation, and services for victims.


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