A critical review of available data on sexual abuse of children in Denmark

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  • Karin Helweg-Larsen
  • Helmer Bøving Larsen


To describe different data sources that may illuminate the incidence and character of child sexual abuse (CSA) in Denmark in the late 1990s.


Data concerning alleged sexual abuse of children below 15 years of age in the 1990s were retrieved from the Danish National Patient Register and the Danish National Criminal Register. In addition, all police files concerning reported CSA in 1 year (1998), were reviewed.


The average annual incidence of CSA was .06 per 1,000 children, based on data in the National Patient Register; however, it was .5 per 1,000 based on data in the Criminal Register. In the Criminal Register, significant annual differences were found in cases of sexual offence against children below 12 years. The police reports comprised very comprehensive information about the victims and the character of CSA. Based on this information the incidence of police reported CSA in 1998 was 1.0 per 1,000 children, and .6 per 1,000 excluding reported cases of indecent exposure. Half of intra-familial CSA resulted in a conviction compared to 40% of extra-familial CSA and 16% of indecent exposure.


In Denmark, criminal statistics contain the most systematic collection of data on CSA. However, data reflect the reporting behavior by parents or other closely related adults, which may be influenced by changes in public awareness of the problem. Consequently, register data should be supplemented by data obtained from self-reported surveys on CSA.

Original languageEnglish
JournalChild Abuse & Neglect
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)715-724
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2006

ID: 80256