Child sexual abuse is a type of child abuse in which an adolescent or adult sexually exploits a child. In order to help end this horrendous exploitation of children, we have to know the facts.
Forms of child sexual abuse include:
- Sexual activity with a child
- Indecent exposure (of genitals, nipples, etc.)
- Creating and/or publishing child pornography
- Forcing a child into prostitution
Child sexual abuse can happen in a wide range of environments. This includes schools, homes, public bathrooms, recreational facilities, and work settings. Child marriage is one of the most prevalent settings in which child abuse transpires.
Statistics on child sexual abuse
While statistics vary, Wikipedia reports that an estimated 19.7% of females and 7.9% of males are subjected to child sexual abuse. Because sexual abuse is often not reported, experts agree that the incidents are probably far greater than what we know.
According to RAINN, one third of child sexual abuse victims are younger than age 12, while two-thirds are ages 12-17.
In 90% of cases, the offender knows the victim. For example, 30% of offenders are related to the child (as cousins, uncles, fathers, or brothers). 60% are acquaintances such as neighbors, babysitters, sports coaches, or friends of the family. In a mere 10% of cases, the abuser is a stranger. Abusers can be other children or adolescents, too.
Effects of child sexual abuse
Sexual abuse can lead to life-altering effects, such as:
- Physical injury
- Post traumatic stress disorder
Research indicates that the psychological consequences of child sexual abuse can be substantive. Victims may withdraw from social activities and school. They may exhibit various behavioral issues and learning problems. Common behavioral issues include conduct disorder and cruelty to animals. Child sexual abuse can also give rise to problematic conditions such as sleep disturbances, eating disorders, depression, and poor self-esteem. Psychological effects like PTSD and anxiety can linger into adulthood, and manifest in behaviors like sex avoidance or substance abuse.
RAINN’s website cites that victims are:
- 4 times more likely than non-victims to develop symptoms of drug abuse
- 4 times more likely to experience PTSD as adults
- 3 times more likely to experience a major depressive episode
It’s possible to overcome trauma from child abuse.
While the pain and problems caused by child sexual abuse seem overwhelming, it’s important to know that there’s always hope.
Survivors can get help through support groups, psychotherapy, or professional counseling services. Professional rehabilitation facilities offer a wide range of highly effective recovery strategies, including healing through artistic work such as painting, writing, or drawing. Support groups can be a place to seek advice and encouragement from individuals who have similar experiences and are on the recovery journey as well. Reading books by authors who are survivors of sexual assault and listening to stories of people who have overcome violence and abuse can be inspiring for a survivor too.
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If you’re a survivor of abuse or know someone who is, know that you are not alone. Live Your Dream has the resources to support and empower you in your healing journey, and offers opportunities to encourage and empower other survivors as well
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