Cost to the Community
A review of the consequences of child abuse indicates that costs can be broadly categorised under the headings: human cost of those abused, long-term human and social cost, cost of public intervention, and cost of community contributions (Kids First Foundation, 2003). The long term human and social cost include mental disability, increased medical service usage, chronic health problems, lost productivity, juvenile delinquency, adult criminality, homelessness, substance abuse and intergenerational transmission of abuse (Kids First Foundation, 2003).
Child sexual abuse has been found to be a key factor in the cause and continuation of youth homelessness with between 50-70% of young people within Supported Accommodation Assistance Programs having experienced childhood sexual assault (van Loon & Kralik, 2005b).
Consequently, it is not surprising that childhood abuse is associated with increased healthcare utilisation and costs. According to NSW Health (1998), survivors of child sexual abuse accounted for 34% of all presentations across the mental health sector in 1998. Survivors of child sexual abuse constitute the greatest number of women requesting services both from the NGO and mental health sectors (Henderson, 2006). In addition, research suggests that approximately 35% to 70% of female mental health patients self-report, if asked, a childhood history of abuse (Briere, 2004).
Walker et al. (1999) examined health care utilisation in the US and found that women who reported a history of child sexual abuse were more likely to visit hospital emergency facilities, had annual total health care costs significantly higher than those without abuse histories and that these differences were observed even after excluding the costs of mental health care.
In a National report published by the Kids First Foundation (2003) highlighting the cost of child abuse and neglect in Australia, it was estimated that the cost to Australian taxpayers was approximately $5 billion per annum. The long term human cost and cost of public intervention was estimated at three quarters of the annual cost, and the long term human and social cost at $2 billion per annum (Kids First Foundation, 2003).
In 2007, it is estimated that there were 130,237 children who were abused or neglected for the first time in Australia. This figure could be as high as 490,000 children. Based on these numbers, the projected cost of child abuse and neglect that will be incurred by the Australian community over the lifetime of children who were first abused or neglected in 2007 was $13.7 billion, but could be as high as $38.7 billion (Taylor et al., 2008).
A study by the United Kingdom National Commission of Inquiry into the Prevention of Abuse estimated that the cost of child protection services, as well as the additional mental health and correctional services associated with child abuse, was over one billion pounds per year in England and Wales (cited in Kids First Foundation, 2003). Similar figures also emerged from an American study, "Prevent Child Abuse" which
Conservatively claimed that US$94 billion was spent annually in response to child abuse (cited in Kids First Foundation, 2003).