What percentage of children who are victims of sexual abuse know their abuser?
Where might you find a person who sexually abuses children?
What percentage of child sexual abuse victims tell someone about the abuse?
What percentage of child sexual abuse reports by children are fabricated?
This is certainly not a topic most people want to spend any time thinking about. However, for the sake of children across this country, it's a subject that requires attention. About one in 10 children will be sexually abused before turning 18.
You might be surprised to learn that about 90 percent of child sexual abuse victims know their abuser. In case you have been led to believe that child sexual abusers look like shady characters, think again. According to Darkness to Light, a website devoted to ending child sexual abuse, those who molest children usually look and (mostly) act just like everyone else. People who sexually abuse children can be found in families, schools, churches, recreation centers, youth sports leagues and any other place children gather.
And it is important to realize that abusers can be and often are other children, although most adolescent sex offenders are not sexual predators and will not go on to become adult offenders.
Researchers estimate that 38 percent of child victims disclose the fact that they have been sexually abused. Of these, 40 percent tell a close friend, which means the vast majority of child sexual abuse incidents are never reported to authorities, though research suggests that such disclosure rates may be increasing. And it is estimated that only 4 to 8 percent of child sexual abuse reports are fabricated.
Who is most at risk?
* Family structure is the most important risk factor in child sexual abuse. Children who live with two married biological parents are at low risk for abuse.
* Children living without either parent are 10 times more likely to be sexually abused than children that live with both biological parents.
* Children who live with a single parent that has a live-in partner are 20 times more likely to be victims of child sexual abuse than children living with both biological parents.
* Females are five times more likely to be abused than males.
* While there is risk for children of all ages, children are most vulnerable to abuse between the ages of 7 and 13.
* The risk for sexual abuse triples for children whose parent(s) are not in the labor force.
Who are perpetrators looking for?
Perpetrators report that they look for passive, quite, troubled, lonely children from single parent or broken homes. They frequently seek out children who are particularly trusting, working proactively to establish a relationship with them before abusing them. They might seek to establish a trusting relationship with the victim's family as well.
What can you do?
* Step 1: Learn the facts: Reading this is a great start.
* Step 2: Minimize the risk: Eliminate or reduce isolated, one-on-one situations to decrease risk for abuse.
* Step 3: Talk about it: Have open conversations with children about their bodies, sex and boundaries.
* Step 4: Recognize the signs: Know the signs of abuse to protect children from further harm.
* Step 5: React responsibly: Understand how to respond to risky behaviors and suspicions or reports of abuse.
As concerned community citizens, everyone can take action against child sexual abuse. Darknesstolight.org has a downloadable booklet for families and communities that outlines steps parents and others can take to protect children from sexual abuse.
Julie Baumgardner is president and CEO of First Things First. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.