Sexual Abuse



Sexual abuse is the involvement of children in sexual activities that they cannot understand, for which they are not developmentally prepared, to which they cannot give informed consent, and/or that violate societal norms.

  • Ranges from oral, genital, or anal contact; fondling; child pornography; prostitution; exhibitionism; and voyeurism
  • 25% of perpetrators are parents, and 30% are nonparental relatives.
  • Most children sexually abused will have no discernible physical injury.


  • ~150,000 substantiated cases per year; most likely underestimate the incidence as these include only those cases reported
  • Prevalence rates between 10% and 30%. The National Violence Survey reported 27% of adult women and 16% of adult men reported sexual abuse during childhood.


  • Peak age of vulnerability: 7 to 13 years of age
  • Girls are victimized more than boys, although abuse of boys is underreported.
  • Single-parent households, domestic violence, parental substance abuse, and mental illness are risk factors.
  • Children who experience other types of abuse are also more likely to be victimized sexually.
  • Race and socioeconomic status do not appear to be risk factors for child sexual abuse.
  • Risk factors for revictimization: younger aged children, more severe maltreatment, families with mental health and substance abuse problems and violence histories

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