BACKGROUND: Although child sexual abuse (CSA) is considered to be a significant health risk, there is no systematic overview of studies that have investigated the prevalence of CSA in Switzerland.
OBJECTIVES: To conduct a systematic review of studies on the prevalence of CSA in Switzerland.
METHODS: A literature search was conducted using several online bibliographic databases. In addition, experts in the field in Switzerland were contacted to find studies that had not been published in academic journals. Studies were selected on the basis of predefined criteria. Because heterogeneity of studies did not allow meta-analytic calculations, data were suitably structured and summarised according to the most common types of CSA.
RESULTS: Fifteen studies met inclusion criteria. Probably due to heterogeneity regarding definition and non-validated assessment of CSA, reported prevalence estimates varied greatly across studies. Prevalence rates were consistently higher for girls (up to 40%) than for boys (up to 11%). The most prevalent CSA with contact appears to be "perpetrator fondled victim", and the most common form of non-contact CSA was "exhibitionism".
DISCUSSION: Due to inconsistent findings, conclusions that can be drawn are limited. However, results indicate that CSA prevalence rates in Switzerland are high and comparable to other European countries. In future, representative studies need to be conducted using a validated instrument based on internationally recognized definitions of CSA to obtain valid assessments of the prevalence of CSA in Switzerland.