Parents play a major role in keeping children safe. Talking to your kids is the number one thing that can prevent abuse or stop it quickly when it happens. Our education programs teach kids how to recognize and prevent violence, but it’s important that parents also teach this lesson at home.
Basic Facts about Child Sexual Abuse
Child sexual abuse is any sexual act between an adult and a minor. Child sexual abuse can also be a sexual act between two minors, when one exerts force over the other.
Physical abuse includes any sort of touching, fondling, or other contact. Examples of non-physical abuse include exposure of genitals, peeping, showing pornography, or using sexual language in conversation, on the phone, or online.
Experts estimate that about 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will experience child sexual abuse before they reach the age of 18.
Child sexual abuse is most often perpetrated by someone the child knows. Many times, the perpetrator is someone that the family knows and trusts, like a relative, a babysitter, a teacher, or another caregiver. About 40% of child sexual abuse instances are perpetrated by older youth.
Child sexual abuse is an escalating process that often involves “grooming.” Abusers may work to win the trust of their victims by buying them gifts, spending a lot of time with them, making them feel special or older by talking about adult topics, or allowing them to do things their parents won’t (like watching R-rated movies, staying up later, eating dessert before dinner).
Abusers manipulate children by attempting to minimize the abuse or confuse the child. They may say things like “It’s not a big deal”; “This is what people do when they like each other”; or “It’s just a game.” Abusers may also blame or shame the victim into silence by saying things like “You let this happen” or “Don’t tell or you’ll get in trouble.”
The grooming process is often escalating. Talking early and often with your kids about their safety can provide opportunities to prevent or intervene in abuse.
Check out some of our tips for Preventing Abuse, including How to Talk with Children and some useful tools for promoting safety.