Where Are Our Teens?
By Karen Hangartner
It has been a tough few months for those of us working in the field of child abuse. We started the summer with families being separated at the border and entered the fall with the sentencing of Bill Cosby and then the testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford at the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. It has been a stark reminder that we are not only impacted by the children and families we work with, we can be impacted by current events. To be clear, this article is not meant to be political in nature but instead a discussion of the issue of sexual assault among teens that was surfaced during the Kavanaugh hearings.

As I listened to Dr. Ford testify during the those hearings , I thought her story sounded so familiar. We hear stories like hers every day in Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs) across the country. She talked about not telling anyone about her assault because she was ashamed. She had attended a party at a house with boys, alcohol, and without parental supervision. She assumed a responsibility for her assault that was not hers to own.

As I watched the fallout after the hearings, I experienced a myriad of emotions. I was angry when I heard people victim blaming. I began posting research and statistics about sexual assault on my Facebook page, thinking surely, I could help educate people on this topic. I became incensed when people responded that women often lie about sexual assault. I felt discouraged that, in 2018, the same denials, excuses, and minimizing of assault are as prevalent as they were 33 years ago before CACs existed.

According to the National Children’s Alliance (NCA), 334,626 children were served at CACs in 2017, with over 70% being between the ages of 0-12 years old. 1 CACs provided these children with a safe space and the opportunity to disclose their abuse. But as I continued to look at the data, I began to wonder about our teens. Would a Christine Blasey Ford be provided the same safe space today ?

How much has changed for our teens in 2018? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are an estimated 16,761,131 teens in the U.S. between the ages of 14 to 17 years. 2 According to the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence (NatSEV II), 6.1% of 14- to 17-year-old teens experienced sexual assault in the past year. 3 In 2017, the NCA reported 96,674 adolescents from the ages of 13-18 were seen at CACs. 4 While the Census Bureau and NCA data reflect different age ranges, with NCA’s being a larger demographic, they both underscore the considerable difference between the number of reported sexual assaults and the number of teens brought to CACs. If, for example, we assume that just half of the teens experiencing sexual assault are brought to a CAC, that is 502,833 teens. Yet, CACs saw less than 100,000 adolescents.
Why do we see so few teens at CACs? Are they not being referred? Are our MDT partners handling these cases in the field? Are they buying into the misconception that teens lie about assault?

In response, and maybe to honor Dr. Ford’s courage, we should have more conversations with our MDT partners about our teenagers. Let’s ensure these kids get the healing services they deserve.
Karen Hangartner, LMSW, is the Project Director of Southern Regional.


1National Children’s Alliance, National Statistics, 2017, http://www.nationalchildrensalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/2017NationalAnnual.pdf.

3 Finkelhor, David, et al. “National survey of children’s exposure to violence.”  Juvenile Justice Bulletin  (2009): 1-11.

4National Children’s Alliance, National Statistics, 2017.

Registration Now Open

February 19-21, 2019 (Part 1)
June 25-27, 2019 (Part 2)


This is training is designed for members of CACs or MDTs who ar e actively performing the role of team facilitator for their MDTs, including coordinating team activities, facilitating case review, and ensuring the successful functioning of their team.
The International Symposium on Child Abuse is a premiere conference that provides expert training and numerous networking opportunities to professionals in the child maltreatment field, and is one of the few conferences that addresses all aspects of child maltreatment, including, but not limited to, physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, exposure to violence, poly-victimization, exploitation, intervention, trafficking, and prevention.

For more information and to register, visit NCAC's website . 
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Spotlight is a newsletter prepared by Southern Regional CAC that focuses on current topics, ideas, trainings, and conferences which are designed to further the knowledge and practice of CAC professionals within the region. We hope you find the information helpful! Let us know if you have specific topics you’d like to see in future newsletters.
This publication is funded through grant #2016-CI-FX-K002 from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Neither the U.S. Department of Justice nor any of its components, operate, control, are responsible for, or necessarily endorse, this publication (including, without limitation, its content, technical infrastructure, and policies, and any services or tools provided).
Southern Regional CAC | #justtryingtohelpsomekids | Vol. 1 No. 9: November 2018