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Sexual Abuse : Facts and Figures



– In the USA, experts estimate that about 1 in every 4 girls and 1 in every 6 boys are sexually molested at least once during their childhood

– Approximately 30% of individuals who molest children target a member of their own family

– Approximately a further 60% of child molesters target a child that they know (but who is not a member of their family)

– About 7 out of every 10 child molesters report that they themselves were abused during their childhood (however, it of course does NOT follow from this that all individuals who were sexually molested as children will go on to become child molesters themselves in a so-called ‘cycle of abuse’. Indeed, evidence for such a ‘cycle of abuse’ is ambiguous and inconclusive).

– Men are far more likely to sexually abuse children than are women. Research suggests the ratio is approximately 10 : 1. However, it has been suggested by some experts that sexual contact between adult women and underage boys is less likely to be reported

– Research shows that children who reside with a single parent or with a single parent and the partner of that parent who is not biologically related the child are about 8 times more likely to be sexually molested when compared with children who live with both their married, biological parents.

– Any form of significant abuse can adversely affect the physical development of the brain which, in turn, can lead to serious psychological problems in adult life, including an extreme vulnerability to the negative effects of stress, difficulties relating to others (including problems forming and maintaining intimate relationships) and great difficulty controlling emotions. In some circumstances, the individual may develop complex post traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) or borderline personality disorder (BPD). Click here to read about how brain development may be adversely affected ; click here to read more about how BPD can develop; or, click here to read more about CPTSD.

– Reasons children do not always report having been sexually abused include : feelings of shame/guilt ; concerns that it may be necessary to leave the family home and go and live in a children’s care facility instead ; fear that, if reported, the abuser may seek revenge/retribution ; fear of not being believed/taken seriously

– Sexual abuse may lead the victim to develop a number of possible psychological conditions; these include : PTSD ; self-sabotaging behaviour ; antisocial behaviour ; psychosomatic conditions (ie physical complaints caused by psychological factors such as stress and chronic fear – these may include headaches, stomach upsets etc) ; abnormally sexualized behaviour (eg indecent exposure) ; learning difficulties ; fear of being left alone ; insomnia/nightmares/night terrors ; extreme outbursts of rage, aggressive and violent behaviour ; suicidal ideation ;cruelty to animals ( in an attempt to feel powerful to compensate for lack of power and control in rest of life) ; greatly increased vulnerability to the adverse effects of even minor stressors in life ; an increase in vulnerability to being victimised further

– About one quarter of sexual molestation of young children is carried out by those under the age of eighteen years

– About 1.3 million children are believed to be the victim of sexual abuse in the U.S. each year

– It is estimated by experts that there are up to half a million child molesters living in the U.S. today

– It is estimated, on average, that men who abuse girls have about fifty victims, while men who abuse boys have about 150 victims

– It is estimated by experts that about one in every ten men has committed a sexual crime against a child

– A paedophile is someone who is primarily sexually attracted to children who are under the age of thirteen. Not all paedophiles molest, or have any sexual contact, with children. Similarly, not all those who molest children, or have sexual contact with them, are paedophiles.


David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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