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Preventing child sexual abuse

What is Child Sexual Abuse?

Sexual abuse of children is a major public health problem and a negative childhood experience (ACE). Child sexual abuse refers to the involvement of a child (a person under the age of 18) in sexual activity that violates social laws or social taboos and that the child does not fully understand:

  • Agree Don’t or don’t disagree Give informed consent or

  • Not ready for development and can’t consent

How big is the problem?

Many children are waiting to report child sexual abuse. Therefore, the figures below tend to underestimate the real impact of the problem. Estimates vary from study to study, but the results of the study are as follows:

About 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 13 boys in the United States experience child sexual abuse.

A person who is known and trusted by a child or family members of a child commits 91% of child sexual abuse. The total lifetime financial burden of child sexual abuse in the United States in 2015 was estimated to be at least $9.3 billion.

What are the consequences?

The experience of child sexual abuse can affect the way a person thinks, acts and feels throughout his life. It can have short-term and long-term physical, mental and behavioral health consequences.

Examples of physical health consequences include:

  • sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

  • physical injury

  • chronic conditions in later life, such as heart disease, obesity, and cancer

Examples of mental consequences include:

  • post-traumatic depression stress syndrome (PTSD) symptoms

Examples of behavioral consequences include:

  • Drug use/abuse, including opioid abuse

  • Risky sexual behavior, e.g. sex with multiple partners or behavior that could result in pregnancy or a sexually transmitted disease

  • Increased risk of sexual assault increased risk of suicide or attempted suicide

Experiencing sexual abuse as a child can also increase a person’s risk of becoming a victim in the future. For example, recent studies have found: women exposed to childhood sexual abuse have a 2- to 13-fold increased risk of sexual abuse as adults people who have experienced sexual abuse are twice as likely to experience non-sexual violence by part of an intimate partner Are you up to date on child sexual abuse prevention?

Adults are responsible for ensuring that children enjoy safe, stable and encouraging relationships and environments. Resources for child sexual abuse have focused primarily on treating victims and criminal justice approaches to offenders. These efforts are important after child sexual abuse. However, little has been invested in the primary prevention or prevention of sexual abuse of children. Effective evidence-based strategies are available to proactively protect children from sexual abuse, but few have been widely disseminated. More resources are needed to develop, evaluate and implement evidence-based strategies for the prevention of primarily sexual abuse of children. These strategies can help ensure that all children have a safe, stable, and good relationship and environment.

What are the recommendations for future research?

Child sexual abuse is preventable.

Additional efforts are needed to prevent sexual abuse of children to:

  • Improve surveillance and data collection systems to monitor sexual abuse of children

  • Expand our understanding of the risk and protective factors of sexual abuse of children and victimize new evidence – based on policies, programs and practices for the primary prevention of sexual violence against children

  • Increase the dissemination and implementation of evidence-based strategies to prevent sexual violence against children