About Child Sexual Abuse

Child sexual abuse is defined as sexual activity with a child by an adult, adolescent or older child. If any adult engages in sexual activity with a child, that is sexual abuse. If another child or adolescent engages in sexual activity with a child, a grey area enters where some sexual behavior is innocent exploration rather than abuse.

There are two main types of child sexual abuse: touching and non-touching. Touching includes touching a child’s genitals, making a child touch someone else’s genitals, playing sexual games, and/or putting objects or body parts inside the vulva or vagina, in the mouth, or in the anus of a child for sexual pleasure. Non-touching abuse includes showing pornography to a child, exposing a person’s genitals to a child, prostituting/trafficking a child, photographing a child in sexual poses, encouraging a child to watch or hear sexual acts either in person or on a video, and/or watching a child undress or use the bathroom.

The Facts

  • Over 300,000 children are abused in the United States each year.
  • Approximately one in three adult women and one in six men were abused sexually as children.
  • Child sexual abuse is a crime in all 50 states.
  • Child sexual abuse can lead to antisocial behavior, depression, identity confusion, loss of self-esteem and other serious emotional problems.
  • 73% of child victims do not tell anyone about the abuse for at least a year. 45% of victims do not tell anyone for at least 5 years.
  • Nearly 70% of all reported sexual assaults occur to children ages 17 and under.
  • In 2000, the sexual assault victimization rate for youths 12 to 17 was 2.3 times higher than for adults.
  • Family structure is the most important risk factor in child sexual abuse, where children who live with a single parent that has a live-in partner are 20 times more likely to be victims of child sexual abuse than children living with both biological parents.

What can you do to prevent child sexual abuse?

  • Get involved with community-based prevention efforts.
  • Seek more information about how to prevent abuse and keep children safe.
  • Protect your own children.
  • Support child abuse victims.
  • Teach others about child abuse prevention.
  • Report suspected child abuse.

In 2013, the NC Alliance of YMCAs adopted Darkness to Light as a statewide initiative to educate and engage communities in the prevention of child sexual abuse. To learn more about this community-based program that educates adults about the steps they can take to prevent, recognize, and respond when they suspect a child may be a victim of child sexual abuse.

Learn more about Darkness to Light.

Visit the NC Alliance of YMCA’s website for a list of YMCA’s in NC communities that are participating in this important work.

NC Coalition for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse

For more information contact Suzanne Metcalf at 919-829-8009.

Join the Prevention Action Network

Join an affiliation of agencies and individuals invested in developing strong families, supportive communities and improving outcomes for NC’s children. Join today!

Free Online Trainings

Take our free, online trainings: Recognizing and Responding to Suspicions of Child Maltreatment and What is Prevention!

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