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Facts About Child Sexual Abuse

Child sexual abuse is the exploitation of a child for the sexual gratification of an adult or any significantly older person. It is called incest if it occurs between family members. Child sexual abuse can include a variety of behaviors including not only fondling, verbal stimulation and pornography, but also more violent behaviors such as rape.

Scope of the Problem

  • One in four girls are sexually exploited by age 18.
  • One in six boys are sexually exploited by age 18.
  • 20% of child sexual abuse cases involve children under the age of 8 years.
  • 90% of the offenders are known to the child.
  • 10.8% of girls and 4.2% of boys from grades 9-12 were forced to have sexual intercourse at some time in their lives.

Nearly 8% of the substantiated cases of child maltreated in 2007 were due to sexual abuse (United States Department of Health and Human Services, 2009).

Characteristics

  • Most children don't tell!
  • Sexual abuse usually begins in early childhood and lasts for several years.
  • The typical offender is a male using his position of power to take advantage of a child's trust, need for affection, and innocence.
  • Child sexual abuse occurs in all socio-economic and racial groups.
  • Children very rarely lie about sexual abuse incidents.

Responding to Child Sexual Abuse

  • Any person can report child abuse to Child Protective Services or a Child Abuse Hotline.
  • Persons in helping professions are required to report suspected abuse.
  • Offenders do not seek treatment voluntarily; abuse will most likely continue unless a report is made.
  • It is very important to reassure a child that he/she did nothing wrong and is not to blame.

Prevention

Education can help prevent sexual exploitation of children. Children and adolescents can learn to recognize potentially exploitative situations and can learn to say "no" to inappropriate touching. Parents can teach these skills to their children. Schools can implement a child sexual abuse prevention curriculum in their health program. Professionals working with children and youth can learn to recognize the symptoms of sexual abuse and how to help a child who has been victimized. Everyone can do something to prevent child sexual abuse.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2005 (cdc.gov)