As an attorney, nurse and grandmother I have had the honor and privilege of representing child sex abuse survivors in criminal court and in civil court. Recent media attention surrounding child sexual abuse cases compels me to outline some of the issues. There are many questions asked by survivors, families of survivors and the people who care about them. According to the Crimes against Children Research Center located at the University of New Hampshire. There are many different sources of estimates concerning the number of children who are victims of sexual abuse.
- One U.S. governmental source counted more than 78,000 child victims of sexual abuse in just 2003. That is a rate of 1.2 per 1,000 American children.
- The 2001 National Crime Victimization Survey which only covers ages 12 through 17 estimates that 1.9 per 1,000 children are rapes or sexually assaulted.
- National Surveys of Adults find that 9 to 28% of women say they have experienced some type of sexual abuse or assault in childhood.
Of course these estimates and others that are available nationwide have limitations mainly because these incidents are often not reported to any law enforcement or protection agency.
Who are the victims of child sexual abuse?
According to the Crimes Against Children Research Center, there really isn’t a precise profile, or way to predict which children could be sexually abused.
- Demographics and gender. It is fairly well known that many more girls than boys are victims of sexual abuse. This statistic has been confirmed regardless of the information that has been used. Across different types of research, all reliable studies conclude that girls experience sexual abuse more than boys.
- Age. There is some discrepancy in the available data about whether teenagers are at higher risks or whether the risk is more uniformly distributed. One national study that uses information, agencies found that 14% of sexual assault victims are ages 0 to 5, 20% are ages 6 to 11, 33% are ages 12 to 17.
Who are the perpetrators of child sexual abuse?
Just as it is difficult to create a simple profile of who will become victims of sexual abuse, it is equally difficult to create a profile of who will perpetrate sexual crimes against minors.
- Gender. The perpetrators of sexual abuse are overwhelmingly males. Studies using law enforcement as well as victims self report data found that more than 90% of the perpetrators of sexual offenses against minors were male.
- Age. Juveniles themselves commit a considerable proportion of sexual offenses against children with estimates indicating about one-third, ranging from 29 to 41% are juveniles. Among adult perpetrators, young adults under the age of 30 make up a large percentage.
- Relationship to the victim. Acquaintances and family members commit most sexual abuse and assault. Several studies agree that approximately half of all the offenders are acquaintances. The studies differ about the percentages who are family members. The range going from 14 to 47%. A good approximation is that the family members constitute a quarter to a third of the offenders. Strangers make up the small group of perpetrators ranging from 7 to 25%.
Resources for survivors of child sexual assault and abuse.
There are many national and local organizations which provide resources for adult survivors of sexual abuse as well as family members or parents of children who have been sexually abused.
- RAINN - Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network has a website (http://www.rainn.org) and a hotline number of 1-800-656-HOPE. The website provides much information about where to get help, how to get additional information and a newsroom which provides help information about recent cases in the media.
- ASCA – Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse is an international self help support group designed specifically for adult’s survivors of neglect, physical, sexual and/or emotional abuse. This program offers community based self help support groups; web based self help support groups, survivor to thriver work box. It has a website (http://www.ascasupport.org).
- HAVOCA- help for adult survivors of child sex abuse-this group is run by adult survivors of child sex abuse. https://www.havoca.org/
- The National Center for Victims of Crime- a terrific resource for crime victims, survivors and their families https://victimsofcrime.org/
- The National crime victims Bar Association – another resource that can be found through The National Center for Crime Victim with a help line 855-4-VICTIM (855-484-2846)
Susan B. Ramsey