The police receive increasing numbers of reports regarding child abuse — the number has tripled over the last 30 years. The number of assaults against children aged between 0 and 6 years old increased by 11 percent in 2012. The increase is general and cannot be traced to any single region or particular occasion. But most of the reports involve children aged between 7 and 17. In many cases, the child knows the perpetrator.
Abuse of older children is often reported by their schools, which can be seen in the statistics in that fewer crimes are reported in the summer than during school terms.
Of those suspected of mistreating small children, the proportion of women is relatively high compared with other crimes: 35 percent of suspects are women (2011). It is often a parent or stepparent who is reported as a suspect.
Most of the suspects are the same age as the victims A large part of the increase in reported crimes against children aged 7-14 is due to reports (including those from the school) of violence between children of the same age. In that case, how many of the suspects are young themselves? The statistics of suspected individuals show that nearly a third of the people suspected for mistreatment towards this age group are 15-20 years old (2011). But it is important to remember that this figure includes only those suspects aged over 15. A great number of crimes against children aged between 7 and 14 are therefore not seen in the statistics of suspected persons, since the perpetrator has in many cases not reached the age of 15 and is therefore not criminally responsible. If these cases are also counted then an estimated 70 percent of all suspects are 20 years old or younger.
A large number of hidden statistics The statistics show only a small number of all cases of child abuse, despite the fact that certain occupational groups have become obligated to report suspected cases. Neither can we rely on crime victim surveys, since children younger than 15 years of age are not interviewed. Brå has previously conducted a survey that clearly showed that the increase in cases of child abuse reported to the police between 1990 and 1997 was connected to the fact that greater numbers of milder cases were brought to the fore, whilst there was no increase in the number of crimes where children received more serious injuries. Whether such is also the case with the substantial increase in reports in recent years, it is not possible to say.