Child sexual abuse has been at the center of unprecedented public attention during the last decade. All fifty states and the District of Columbia have enacted statutes identifying child sexual abuse as criminal behavior (Whitcomb, 1986). This crime encompasses different types of sexual activity, including voyeurism, sexual dialogue, fondling, touching of the genitals, vaginal, anal, or oral rape and forcing children to participate in pornography or prostitution.
Perpetrators of child sexual abuse come from different age groups, genders, races and socio- economic backgrounds. Women sexually abuse children, although not as frequently as men, and juvenile perpetrators comprise as many as one-third of the offenders (Finkelhor, 1994). One common denominator is that victims frequently know and trust their abusers.
Child abusers coerce children by offering attention or gifts, manipulating or threatening their victims, using aggression or employing a combination of these tactics. “[D]ata indicate that child molesters are frequently aggressive. Of 250 child victims studied by DeFrancis, 50% experienced physical force, such as being held down, struck, or shaken violently” (Becker, 1994).
Studies have not found differences in the prevalence of child sexual abuse among different social classes or races. However, parental inadequacy, unavailability, conflict and a poor parent-child relationship are among the characteristics that distinguish children at risk of being sexually abused (Finkelhor, 1994). According to the Third National Incidence Study, girls are sexually abused three times more often than boys, whereas boys are more likely to die or be seriously injured from their abuse (Sedlak & Broadhurst, 1996). Both boys and girls are most vulnerable to abuse between the ages of 7 and 13 (Finkelhor, 1994).
- Although child sexual abuse is reported almost 90,000 times a year, the numbers of unreported abuse is far greater because the children are afraid to tell anyone what has happened, and the legal procedure for validating an episode is difficult (American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 2004).
- It is estimated that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will have experienced an episode of sexual abuse while younger than 18 years. The numbers of boys affected may be falsely low because of reporting techniques (Botash, Ann, MD, Pediatric Annual, May, 1997).
- Sixty-seven percent of all victims of sexual assault reported to law enforcement agencies were juveniles (under the age of 18); 34% of all victims were under age 12. One of every seven victims of sexual assault reported to law enforcement agencies were under 6. Forty percent of the offenders who victimized children under age 6 were juveniles (under the age of 18). (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2000).
- Most children are abused by someone they know and trust, although boys are more likely than girls to be abused outside of the family. A study in three states found 96% of reported rape survivors under age 12 knew the attacker. Four percent of the offenders were strangers, 20 percent were fathers, 16 percent were relatives and 50% were acquaintances or friends (Advocates for Youth, 1995).
All the above statistics were retrieved from The National Center for Victims of Crime: http://www.ncvc.org/ncvc/main.aspx?dbName=DocumentViewer&DocumentID=32315