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Sexual Abuse Myths

Knowledge is the Key to Sexual Abuse Prevention.

What is Sexual Abuse?

The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) defines child sexual abuse as: The employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of any child to engage in, or assist any other person to engage in, any sexually explicit conduct or simulation of such conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct; or the rape, and in cases of caretaker or interfamilial relationships, statutory rape, molestation, prostitution, or other form of sexual exploitation of children, or incest with children. Sexual abuse can occur as either contact (hands-on molestation or sexual assault) or non-contact (producing child pornography or showing pornography to children).

Sexual Abuse Statistics 

  • 95% of childhood sexual abuse is preventable through education

  • 1 in 3 girls is sexually abused before their 18th birthday

  • 1 in 6 boys is sexually abused before their 18th birthday

  • This year, 400,000 children will be born who will be sexually abused without education and lasting change

  • As many as 40% of sexually abused children are abused by older, more powerful children

  • An estimated 50 million Americans are survivors of sexual abuse

  • Close to 70% of reported sexual assaults are committed against children 17 years old and younger

  • It is estimated that less than 40% of abused children ever disclose the abuse 

  • 90% of sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone the victim knows

  • Approximately 30% of children who are sexually abused are abused by family members

  • There are approximately 500,000 registered sex offenders in the U.S.

  • 70% of child sex offenders have between 1 and 9 victims, while 20% have between 10 and 40 victims

  • 1 in 5 children are sexually solicited online before the age of 18

Signs of Sexual Abuse in Children.

  • New and inexplicable fear of certain people or places

  • Regressing to thumb-sucking, bed-wedding, soiling clothes, etc. after previously growing beyond these behaviors

  • New and/or non age-appropriate sexual talk and/or behavior 

  • Pain, discoloration, rash, etc. on/near genitals

  • Anger, rage, and/or acting out in new ways

  • The child suddenly having gifts or money from an unknown source

  • Anxiety and/or depression

Understanding Perpetrators & Abuser Tactics.

  • Most abusers are known and trusted by their victims.

  • Many who commit sexual abuse serve in a trusted capacity - teachers, church leaders, coaches, family friends and even family members.

  • Perpetrators of sexual abuse often begin by grooming their victims - testing the waters to identify children/families that are vulnerable to abuse.

  • Abusers will often begin with “playful” tactics - tickling, wrestling, etc. to see how the victim responds.

  • Perpetrators will purposely put victims in situations where either themselves or the victims are in a state of undress - swimming, water sports, athletic showers, etc. 

  • Abusers will often endear themselves to victims through giving gifts and money and paying special attention to their targets.

  • Once the abuse has been perpetrated, abusers will often use fear and shame to guilt and terrorize their victims into staying quiet and not revealing or reporting the abuse.

Mandatory Reporting and How to Support a Victim.

How to Support a Victim

When someone discloses past or present abuse to you, it is important to remain calm and not overreact. This is a very sensitive situation that involves fear, shame and feelings of unworthiness. Do your best to be supportive and show empathy, and focus getting help for the victim as well as, when possible, reporting the abuser to the appropriate authorities.

Mandatory Reporting

All adult professionals who work with children are mandatory reporters of sexual abuse, meaning they are required by law to report suspected or disclosed abuse. Mandated reporters include law enforcement officers, mental health professionals, teachers, healthcare personnel, employees of organizations serving youth and other professions as required by mandated reporter laws. In certain states, all adults are considered mandated reporters. Always call 911 if a child is in immediate danger.

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