Menu Close

Dimensions of Child Sexual Abuse before Age 15 in Three Central American Countries: Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala


Speizer, Ilene S.; Goodwin, Mary M.; Whittle, Lisa; Clyde, Maureen; & Rogers, Jennifer E. (2008). Dimensions of Child Sexual Abuse before Age 15 in Three Central American Countries: Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Child Abuse & Neglect, 32(4), 455-462.


Objective: The prevalence of sexual abuse during childhood or adolescence varies depending on the definitions and age categories used. This study examines the first national, population-based data available on child sexual abuse that occurs before age 15 in three countries: El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. This study uses comparable indicators and measures of sexual abuse for the three countries to document the prevalence of abuse, types of perpetrators, and the association of child sexual abuse with recent intimate partner violence.
Methods: Child sexual abuse was defined as sexual abuse that first occurs before age 15. Nationally representative data from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras were used. In El Salvador, separate questions on forced intercourse and non-penetrative sexual abuse were asked. Bivariate and multivariate analyses were performed using STATA Version 8SE.
Results: The prevalence of child sexual abuse varied from 7.8% in Honduras to 6.4% in El Salvador and 4.7% in Guatemala. In all three countries, the overwhelming majority of women who reported child sexual abuse first experienced the abuse before age 11. Perpetrators tended to be a family member, a neighbor, or an acquaintance. Bivariate and multivariate analyses indicated that women who experienced child sexual abuse in Guatemala and Honduras were about two times more likely to be in violent relationships as women who did not experience abuse. This relationship was not significant in multivariate analyses for El Salvador where the prevalence of intimate partner violence was the lowest.
Conclusions: Child sexual abuse in Central America is clearly a problem with the prevalence between 5% and 8%. Child sexual abuse can have long-term negative health impacts including exposure to intimate partner violence in adulthood. Programs to prevent abuse and treat victims of child sexual abuse are needed in Central America.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Child Abuse & Neglect


Speizer, Ilene S.
Goodwin, Mary M.
Whittle, Lisa
Clyde, Maureen
Rogers, Jennifer E.