April is Child Abuse Prevention month, an excellent opportunity to raise awareness for a silent epidemic that harms our children: child sexual abuse. In the face of this epidemic, I believe we have to confront the facts, speak with caregivers, and respond to behaviors of concern in our homes, schools, daycare, youth programs, and places of faith. Only then can we begin obliterating the culture of silence that allows child sexual abuse to thrive in our communities.
How prevalent is child sexual abuse in your community? Let’s look at the facts.
Just the Facts
Most parents are surprised to learn that one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before the age of 18. This means that in a high school graduating class of 300, approximately 62 students will have been sexually abused during their childhood. Even worse, 85% of those graduating teens will have been abused by someone known and trusted.
Child sexual abuse afflicts children and families from every socioeconomic, religious, cultural, and educational background. Children from birth to 18 are vulnerable.
Contrary to popular belief, any type of person can sexually abuse a child. Approximately, 96 percent of abuse is committed by males and two to four percent by females. In the U.S., up to 50 percent of child sex abuse is committed by juveniles (children under the age of 18).
How Sexual Abuse Happens
Child sexual abuse includes touching and non-touching behaviors, and photographing children for pornographic uses. Children are typically groomed over time, through friendship and trust, to keep sexual abuse a secret. Children are rewarded with toys, special privileges and attention so they become “willing participants” in keeping secrets, or they are emotionally threatened into compliance. Child sexual abuse invades a child’s body and spirit creating deep shame, which can make it difficult, even impossible, for children to tell.
Adults are also groomed by the offender as part of a thoughtful plan toward gaining access. The offender counts on access to the child and our collusion through silence.
I know the facts are harsh, but there’s the good news: Child sexual abuse can be prevented. Come back tomorrow to start learning what you can do to raise children and build communities that are off limits to child sexual abusers. Meanwhile, Test Your Knowledge about child sexual abuse.