Adults' Responsibility in the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse
Child sexual abuse: the hidden epidemic
Child sexual abuse is a hidden but significant problem in
every community in America. Experts estimate that one in
four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused
before their 18th birthday. Less than one in ten will tell.
Research clearly shows that individuals who are sexually
abused as children are far more likely to experience
psychological problems often lasting into adulthood,
including Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, depression,
substance abuse and relationship problems. Child sexual
abuse does not recognize region, race, creed, socio-economic
status or gender; it crosses all boundaries to impact every
community and every person in America.
If child sexual abuse were like most childhood diseases, the
prevalence and consequences of it would lead to telethons to
raise money for its cure every weekend. But child sexual
abuse is one of the last cultural taboos. With the exception
of child-focused personal safety programs, almost nothing
is being done to address it.
Darkness to Light believes that adults
should be taking proactive steps to protect children from
this significant risk. It is unrealistic to think that a
young child can take responsibility for fending off sexual
advances by an adult. Adults are responsible for the safety
of children. Adults are the ones who need to prevent,
recognize and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. Yet,
the statistics clearly show that adults aren’t shouldering
this responsibility. Darkness to Light believes
that adults just don’t know how.
What adults need to know about child sexual abuse…
- It happens more than you think. A lot more
one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually
abused before their eighteenth birthday.
- It can happen right under your nose and you may
never know - less than one victim in ten will
- The perpetrators aren’t usually “dirty old
men hiding in the bushes” - 34% of those who
sexually abuse children are family members. A further
59% are friends and acquaintances of the child and his
- You probably don’t realize how big the problem
is - 67% of the victims of all sexual assaults
(including adults) are children.
- And we’re not talking about young teenagers
having consensual sex - the median age for
sexual abuse is just nine years of age.
- Child sexual abuse is not just a bad experience.
Child sexual abuse wrecks young lives - victims
of child sexual abuse are at far greater risk for all
sorts of psychological disorders including PTSD,
depression, substance abuse and relationship problems,
often lasting into adulthood.
The personal pain of child sexual abuse…
- Adolescents and young adults with a history of
childhood abuse are 3 times more likely to become
depressed or suicidal as compared to those without such
a history. ( Brown, Cohen, Johnson & Smailes,
- Women with histories of childhood abuse report a
greater number of physical and psychological problems,
and lower ratings of their overall health than their
peers. ( Moeller & Bachmann, 1993 )
- 34% of children who are either physically or sexually
abused, and 58% of children who are both physically and
sexually abused meet the criteria for Post Traumatic
Stress Syndrome. ( Ackerman, Newton, McPherson, Jones
& Dykman, 1998). Untreated, PTSD is a chronic
disorder. The residual emotional, behavioral, cognitive
and social symptoms persist and contribute to a host of
psychiatric problems through life. ( Ferguson &
Horwood, 1998 )
- Adolescents and adults who are abused in childhood are
significantly more likely to drink alcohol and/or use
illicit drugs than their peers. Adolescents and adults
who were victims of childhood maltreatment have been
consistently found to be more likely to engage in
high-risk sexual behaviors.
And the cost to us all…
- A 1996 National Institute of Justice study estimated
that each year child sexual abuse in America costs the
nation $35 billion
Victims of child sexual abuse generally spend more on
psychiatric care and medical services throughout their
lives. Some victims of child sexual abuse require more
expensive special educational services. Child sexual
abuse causes lost potential and productivity. These
expenses, which would not be necessary if not for sexual
abuse, are a financial drain to each and every one of
So, what is happening to prevent child
7 Steps to Protecting Our Children
to learn simple
proactive steps to take to be a responsible adult about
child sexual abuse.
- Preventing sexual abuse with child-focused
programs… There are several well-known and
successful programs that teach children self-protection
skills and techniques, as age-appropriate. These
programs also teach children about physical boundaries
and about discerning types of touch. These programs are
valuable to children. The skills learned by children in
these programs have thwarted some abductions and sexual
assaults. However, we must not fall into a trap of
thinking that these skills are the only protection
- Think about it. It is unrealistic to
expect a six-year old to fend off sexual advances from
an adult relative. A six-year old can’t recognize
sexual advances for what they are. And a six-year old
has been taught to “mind” adults who are authority
figures. It is unrealistic to think that a six-year old
can or even should protect himself in this situation.
Adults are responsible for the safety of children. We
strap children into car seats, we walk children across
busy streets and we ask our teenagers questions about
where they are going and who they will be with, all to
keep them safe. Adults should also be responsible for
protecting children from sexual abuse.
Why don’t adults do a better job? Child abuse
statistics show that adults do not adequately protect
children from child sexual abuse. There are a lot of
reasons why, but the main one is THEY DON’T KNOW
- Research suggests that adults are unaware of effective
steps they can take to protect their children from
sexual abuse. Most do not know how to recognize signs of
sexual abuse and many do not know what to do when sexual
abuse is discovered.
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