The mission of the Crimes against Children Research Center (CCRC) is to combat crimes against children by providing high quality research and statistics to the public, policy makers, law enforcement personnel, and other child welfare practitioners. CCRC is concerned with research about the nature of crimes including child abduction, homicide, rape, assault, and physical and sexual abuse as well as their impact.
The CCRC is concerned with children and adolescents, from birth through age 17, and all their crime victimizations, both within and outside the family, both known and unknown to law enforcement.
- Criminal acts as defined by law, such as sexual assault, abduction, theft, robbery, and aggravated assault against children
- Child abuse in all its forms--physical, sexual, emotional--and child neglect
- Child-to-child violence, such as peer and sibling assaults, which would be considered criminal if the parties were adults
- Indirect victimization, where children witness or are affected by the crime victimization of a family member or friend
Children and adolescents have among the highest rates of conventional crime victimization and,
in addition, suffer from some crimes like sexual abuse and family abduction specific to childhood.
Despite enormous publicity about crime and youth, however, this high vulnerability is seldom mentioned.
The disproportionate number of youthful offenders is much more widely recognized than the
disproportionate number of victims.
- Youth 12-17 are two to three times more likely than adults to be the victims of an assault, robbery, or rape, according to the National Crime Victimization Survey1
- Nearly half of all rape victims are girls under the age of 182
- Child protection agencies substantiate more than one million cases of child maltreatment annually3
- Children are three times more likely than adults to be seriously assaulted by members of their families4
- Children are subject to crimes not suffered by adults, such as child neglect, molestation, and family abduction
Crimes against children also deserve special attention because of their different and potentially more severe consequences
- The large number of crimes perpetrated against children by family members threatens the crucial formative environment of childhood by disrupting and distorting important family relationships
- Victimization can derail normal, healthy child development. It can affect personality formation, have long-term mental health consequences and impact academic performance
- Research has consistently shown that exposure to crime and violence places children at risk for serious delinquency
- Because of their dependency, children can suffer irreparably when parents are traumatized by crime victimization and domestic violence
The Crimes against Children Research Center proposes four primary goals to comprise a comprehensive and feasible policy for child victims within the criminal justice system.
- Greater recognition of the extent of victimization among the children who come within the purview of the justice system by improved history taking, assessment, record keeping, and exchange of information
- Enhanced protection of child crime victims from continued victimization and from unnecessary trauma and discomfort associated with the workings of the justice system
- Universal rehabilitation of child crime victims through services and programs to aid in recovery and minimize long term effects on development
- Greater public accountability by evaluating the impact of the justice system's policies and programs on children
The investigation and prosecution of crimes involving children and adolescents pose special challenges for law enforcement--problems related to the immaturity of children, their vulnerability to intimidation, the prejudices of judges and juries, and the frequent involvement of family members as perpetrators.
The justice system has contact with juvenile victims in five main contexts, sometimes explicitly in the role of victim and sometimes in other roles:
- Young crime victims whose testimony is crucial in criminal investigations and prosecutions, including sexually and physically assaulted and abducted children, as well as children who witness domestic and street crimes
- Victims of child abuse and neglect involved in child protection actions
- Children exposed to domestic violence or family abductions, whose parents are involved with the criminal justice system
- Juvenile criminal offenders, who frequently have histories of crime and abuse victimization
- Juvenile status offenders, who also tend to have histories of crime and abuse victimization
The passage of young victims through the justice system at these various levels provides opportunities to identify them and provide them with help. The CCRC is committed to develop knowledge that will assist the creation of appropriate programs and policies for these young people.
The Crimes against Children Research Center is undertaking a variety of important tasks to promote knowledge and improve strategies for preventing crimes against children and helping victims and families.
Policy reports on key current issues
There is a pressing need for knowledgeable experts to summarize and disseminate research on key policy issues.
National and local statistics on crimes against children
- The CCRC will promote the inclusion of data about crimes against child victims in all national crime statistics
- The CCRC will help generate child victimization data using the new National Incident Based Reporting System
- The CCRC will test ways in which crime victimization information for all children can be collected via self-report and caretaker report
Tools for practitioners and researchers
The CCRC will create, test, and disseminate developmentally appropriate screening instruments to assess exposure to crime and violence usable in both research and practice settings, such as school guidance offices, pediatric clinics, and battered women's shelters.
Promoting crime reporting and help-seeking
The CCRC is committed to developing strategies to promote reporting of crimes against children and the provision of services to child victims and their families.
Evaluating state-of-the-art prevention and intervention programs
Hundreds of programs to prevent child victimization have been created for schools and families. The CCRC will assist school administrators, law enforcement officials, and parents to select among effective programs.
Training practitioners and researchers
The CCRC will organize courses and workshops for law enforcement and child welfare practitioners, as well as fellowships for researchers and graduate students.
Monitoring and interpreting trends
The CCRC will draw attention to new developments and trends by publishing briefing papers, disseminating research, and discussing its implications.
The Crimes against Children Research Center was created in 1998 at the University of New Hampshire. It grew out of and expands upon the work of the Family Research Laboratory, which has been devoted to the study of family violence and related topics since 1975. Associated with the Center is an internationally recognized group of experts who have published numerous books and articles concerning the incidence and impact of violence against children.
CCRC staff have contributed to many pioneering national crime studies, including:
- National Incidence Study of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children (NISMART)
- National Family Violence Survey
- National Youth Victimization Prevention Survey
- National Survey of Sexual Abuse in Day Care
- Developmental Victimization Survey
- First, Second & Third Youth Internet Safety Surveys (YISS)
- Multi-Site Evaluation of Children's Advocacy Centers
- National Survey of Children's Exposure to Violence (NatSCEV)
- First, Second & Third National Juvenile Online Victimization (NJOV) Studies
Initial funding for the CCRC was provided by the US Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The Center will also draw on funding from grants, individual gifts, revenues from publications and programs, and state and federal sources.
The CCRC is directed by David Finkelhor, who is also the Co-director of the Family Research Laboratory and Professor of Sociology at the University of New Hampshire. Dr. Finkelhor has been researching criminal violence against children since 1978 and is the author and editor of 10 books and more than 100 articles on the subject.