Facts About Childhood Sexual Abuse
Child sexual abuse is not rare. Retrospective research indicates that as many as 1 out of 4 girls and 1 out of 6 boys will experience some form of sexual abuse before the age of 18. (1) However, because child sexual abuse is by its very nature secretive, many of these cases are never reported.
Children are most often sexually abused by someone they know and trust. Approximately three quarters of reported cases of child sexual abuse are committed by family members or other individuals who are considered part of the victim’s “circle of trust.” (2)
23% of reported cases of child sexual abuse are perpetrated by individuals under the age of 18. (3) While some degree of sexual curiosity and exploration is to be expected between children of about the same age, when one child coerces another to engage in adult-like sexual activities, the behavior is unhealthy and abusive.
70 to 73% of child sexual abusers report experiencing sexual abuse in their own childhood. (4)
Researchers stress that it is crucial to respond in a supportive manner if a child discloses abuse. Children who disclose abuse and receive a negative reaction or no reaction at all suffer more from general trauma symptoms, dissociation, and PTSD than those who had supportive responses. (4)
Behavioral changes are often the first signs of sexual abuse. These can include nervous or aggressive behavior toward adults, early and age-inappropriate sexual provocativeness, alcohol consumption and the use of other drugs. Boys are more likely than girls to act out or behave in aggressive and antisocial ways.
(1) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2005). Adverse Childhood Experiences Study: Data and Statistics. Atlanta, GA
(2) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Children, Youth, and Families. (2007). Child Maltreatment 2005. Washington, DC
(3) Snyder, H. N. (2000). Sexual assault of young children as reported to law enforcement: Victim, incident, and offender characteristics. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics.
(4) Doak, Melissa J.( 2011). Child Abuse and Domestic Violence. New York, NY: Gale Cengage Learning. 5- David Finkelhor. "Current Information on the Scope and Nature of Child Sexual Abuse." The Future of Children, 1994.