Sociology, Department of


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Published in Child Abuse & Neglect 26:12 (December 2002), pp. 1261–1274; doi 10.1016/S0145-2134(02)00413-1 Copyright © 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. Used by permission.


Objective: To examine abuse specific variables among homeless and runaway adolescents and to look at perpetrators of childhood abuse.
Method: A total of 372 homeless and runaway adolescents were interviewed using a systematic sam¬pling strategy in metropolitan Seattle. Young people were interviewed on the streets and in shelters by outreach workers in youth service agencies.
Results: Approximately one-half of these young people reported being physically abused and al¬most one-third experienced sexual abuse. Females experienced significantly higher rates of sex¬ual abuse compared to males, and sexual minority youth experienced significantly higher rates of physical and sexual abuse compared to heterosexual youth. Average duration of physical and sexual abuse was 5 and 2 years, respectively. Both types of abuse were rated as extremely violent by more than half of those who were abused. The average number of different perpetra¬tors of physical and sexual abuse was four and three, respectively. Biological parents were the majority of perpetrators for physical abuse whereas nonfamily members most often perpetrated sexual abuse. Average age of perpetrators was late 20s to early 30s and the majority of perpetra¬tors were male for both types of abuse.
Conclusions: The pattern of exploitation and victimization within the family may have serious and cumulative developmental consequences for these youth as they enter the street environment. Early intervention programs are needed to break the cycle of exploitation and abuse that adoles¬cents experience within the family. Without intervention, many of these youth may be at risk of future exploitation and re-victimization out on the street.

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