SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- About 40 percent of the female students surveyed in community colleges in Sacramento said they were sexually abused as children, and nearly two-thirds of those victims said they were raped as adults, a new study has found.
The high incidence of molestation and rape among the young adults surveyed is consistent with other national studies documenting the growth in reported sexual abuse.
Women are not the only victims. The study, conducted by Anthony J. Urquiza, an assistant clinical professor at the Child Protection Center in Sacramento, found that 17 percent to 20 percent of male students surveyed reported childhood sexual abuse.
"You have to identify how pervasive it is to get people's attention," said Mr. Urquiza, who surveyed nearly 1,400 volunteer students, mostly from American River and Sacramento colleges, selected randomly over the past three years. "This is a major social issue. This goes to the basic fabric of who we are as individuals and as a community."
Many of those victimized are continuing to deal with the emotional and physical consequences, Mr. Urquiza said. The protection center is run by the Department of Pediatrics at University of California-Davis Medical Center.
The study's findings that women who have been molested as children are more likely to be raped as adults demonstrates one of the dangers facing abuse survivors, he said.
The higher rate of rape among adult abuse survivors may relate to increased sexual activity, number of sexual partners, high-risk sexual practices and decision-making skills about sexual relationships, other research has theorized.
Adult survivors are flooding centers to get treatment for childhood sexual abuse that they have kept secret for decades, said Deborah Daro, research director for the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse.
Sexual abuse of children remains a national problem. Last year, there were 440,000 reports of sexual abuse among the 2.9 million reports of child abuse and neglect in the United States, according to the national committee.
Among ethnic groups, the rates of childhood sexual abuse were similar. But Mr. Urquiza found a higher incidence of adult rape for minority women. African-American women reported the highest level of rape, 41.2 percent, compared with other groups such as Caucasian, 23.5 percent; Latino, 16.7 percent; and Asian-American, 15.4 percent.
A new national study conducted by the Family and Child Program at the Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center found that 8.5 percent of U.S. adult women have been raped before age 18.
Of the 97 million adult women in the United States, 9 million of them suffered rape as a child, said Dr. Ben Saunders, of the treatment center at the Medical University of South Carolina, who conducted the study.
When including women who were sexually molested but not raped, the percentage rises to 25 percent of all women in the United States, he said.
"It is reasonable to say that one out of every three women have experienced some form of sexual abuse prior to the age of 18," he said.
Researchers said that the results of the survey of community college students in Sacramento would be higher because those surveyed are younger and live on the West Coast -- both factors contributing to higher rates of sexual abuse.