Child Rape Victims, 1992

By Patrick A. Langan, Ph.D. & Caroline Wolf Harlow, Ph.D. BJS Statisticians

U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics

According to the FBI, 109,062 forcible rapes of females were reported to the Nation's law enforcement agencies in 1992.-1 A Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) survey of the States (including the District of Columbia) solicited data on victims' ages. Thirty-six States reported that they did not keep such statistics, and the remaining 15 responded with information on 26,427 female victims, or nearly one-fourth the national total. Statistics from the BJS State survey revealed that:

About 1 in 4 rape victims were under:

age 10 in Delaware, Michigan

age 11 in North Dakota

age 14 in Arkansas

age 15 in Alabama, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin

age 16 in the District of Columbia, Idaho

About 1 in 3 rape victims were under:

age 13 in Delaware, Michigan, North Dakota

age 16 in Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin

age 17 in Alabama

age 18 in the District of Columbia, Idaho


Twelve States reported in sufficient detail to distinguish juvenile from adult rape victims. Their 20,824 victims comprised 20% of the national total. In the 12 States, 51% of female rape victims were juveniles under age 18. By comparison, females under 18 comprised 25% of the 1992 U.S. female population.


Two Federal statistical programs provide national measures of rape incidence: the FBl's Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program, which records rapes reported to law enforcement agencies, and the BJS National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), which records reported and unreported rapes, based on Census Bureau interviews with the American public age 12 and older.

While statistics from the NCVS provide details on victims' ages, they do not include children under age 12. Experts agree that this segment of the population cannot be reliably interviewed in the NCVS. Children under 12 are included in the UCR program, but UCR national statistics provide no age details. Consequently, neither program offers information on rape victims under 12. In recent years a growing number of States have adopted a more detailed reporting system in the UCR program. Data from the developing system were gathered in the BJS survey of States and used here to estimate the number of rape victims under age 12. The estimate was based on those States that indicated the number of victims under age 12 or thereabout. Data from 12 States qualified: the 5 that reported the number under 12, 4 others that reported the number age 12 and under, and 3 others that reported the number under 11.

The 12 States reported ages on 23,938 victims, or 22% of the national total.2 Based on these data, an estimated 16% of rape victims, or 1 in 6, were under age 12. By comparison, females under 12 comprised 17% of the 1992 U.S. female population.

Applying the 16% figure from the 12 States to the national total, BJS estimated that nationwide about 17,000 girls under age 12 (16% of 109,062) were raped in 1992. This is a conservative estimate because it was derived from statistics on rapes reported to law enforcement officials and did not include unreported rapes. Also, to some unknown degree the estimate is imprecise because the 12 States that formed its basis were probably not nationally representative.


1. FBI, Crime in the United States, 1992, p. 23,1993.

2. These are not the same 12 States that reported the number under age 18.


Two sources provided information on rapists: interviews with rape victims reported to law enforcement agencies in 1991 in three States (Alabama, North Dakota, and South Carolina ) and 1991 interviews with rapists confined in the Nation's State prisons. Sources indicated similar accounts of rape victim ages:

Regardless of the source, when the victim was under 12, the likelihood of a family relationship was relatively high: 46% of victims and 70% of imprisoned rapists. Additional detail from the three-State survey revealed that 20% of victims under age 12,11% of victims age 12 to 17, and 1% of those 18 or older were raped by their fathers.