Child sexual abuse is a violation of trust and power that can affect girls and boys of all ages. Abuse can be in many forms, including sexual acts such as rape and other types of penetration, inappropriate touching, voyeurism, exhibitionism, pornography, child sexual exploitation, and internet-based child sexual abuse.
1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18.
Many children who are victimized don’t talk about the abuse. They feel confused when a person they know and trust violates them. Also, many men or women who sexually abuse children will manipulate or threaten the child in an attempt to keep their victim silent. Children want the abuse to stop, but fear what might happen if they tell.
Warning signs of abuse
Sometimes the signs of abuse are obvious, but most often they are not. Symptoms of child sexual abuse can include:
- Physical injuries
- Mood and emotional changes
- Inappropriate sexual behavior
- Increased talk about sexuality in a way that is inappropriate for their age
Potential health effects
The effects of child sexual abuse can affect the victim for many years even into adulthood. Several multi-decade studies have documented that people with childhood sexual abuse histories experience higher rates of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse, suicidal tendencies and chronic illness such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Victims also have problems with trust, self-esteem and emotional regulation, which can cause problems in interpersonal relationships. The effects of abuse also impact academic success, job retention, and earnings.
Ways you can help
Through education, identify offender behaviors and be confident enough to report suspicions to authorities.
Talk about it. Parents, guardians, and caregivers can foster open communication with children, establish personal boundaries, help children identify adults they can trust, monitor children’s online usage, and be role models by promoting healthy relationships.
The Child & Family Counseling Center at PAAR is available to provide help to survivors. Call 1-866-END-RAPE (1-866-363-7273).