These child sexual abuse statistics bring to light a dark issue in the underbelly of our societies and cultures worldwide. Child sexual abuse is a difficult topic, but raising awareness and recognizing warning signs are two main ways to create a safer world for all children.
People usually think that strangers kidnap, assault, and sexually violate children. Although that’s true to a certain extent, the reality is that in more than 90% of cases, the perpetrator is someone that the child knows, trusts, and loves.
Child Sexual Abuse Statistics (Editor’s Choice)
- Around 10% of children experience sexual assault or abuse
- Over 80% of victims younger than 18 are female
- The victim knows the perpetrators in 93% of the cases
- Almost a third of the perpetrators are the child’s family members
- 35% of male perpetrators had been victims of sexual abuse themselves
- Four in ten sexual assaults are committed by another child
- Males represent 96% of all perpetrators
- One in seven sexual assaults by children occurs during after-school hours
Terminology: Pedophile Statistics or Child Molester Facts?
The terminology of child sexual abuse is complex. Recent studies reinforce the need to move away from terms such as pedophile, which describes the perpetrators of child sexual abuse as mentally ill. While some child rapists are pedophiles, most are not. Rather, individuals who made a choice to abuse a child. Other important terms include:
Child sexual abuse: The repetitive act of sexually violating a child over time.
Child sexual assault: The one-time act of sexually violating a child, which can include any sexual touching or exploitation.
Molestation: The sexual assault of a very young child.
Rape: The forced act of penetration.
Child Sexual Abuse Statistics: Prevalence
With 10% of the population experiencing this devastating crime, it’s essential to understand the severity of this global problem. While many wish to look the other way or not think about how many people are survivors of childhood sexual abuse, it accounts for more than half of all sexual assaults.
1. Around one in ten children are sexually abused.
(Darkness to Light, Victims of Crime)
Child sexual abuse statistics show that about 1 in 10 children will experience sexual assault before they turn 18. Girls are the most likely to be victimized, with an estimated rate of 1 in every 7, while boys have a rate of 1 in 25.
2. Almost 70% of all sexual assaults happen to minors.
(Darkness to Light)
Nearly two-thirds of sexual violence cases involve a minor. Children under 18 have a 2.3 times higher chance of being sexually victimized. Child sex abuse statistics indicate that while the incidence of sexual assault appears to be declining, children are still the most vulnerable group in regards to this type of crime.
3. 73% of child abuse victims don’t tell anyone about the abuse for at least a year.
Fear, shame, and not knowing what has happened are leading reasons children don’t talk about the abuse. According to statistics on childhood sexual abuse, one in three adults wouldn’t believe a child if they disclosed sexual abuse. Studies have also shown that children lie about sexual abuse in only 2%–10% of cases.
4. 82% of victims younger than 18 are female.
Girls aged 16 to 19 are four times more likely to be sexually assaulted than any other age group. 12.3% of sexually assaulted women were ten years old or younger when first assaulted, while 30% of 11 to 17-year-old girls report being raped for the first time.
Child Sexual Abuse Statistics: Risk Factors
While childhood sexual violence pervades race, social class, gender, and culture, some children are at higher risk than others to experience this type of abuse. There are several risk factors for child sexual abuse, including living with a step-parent, being orphaned or a foster child, and experiencing sexual abuse before.
5. Children who live with a step-parent are 20 times more likely to be sexually abused.
(Victims of Crime) (Darkness To Light)
Childhood sexual abuse statistics reveal that orphaned children or children whose parents are divorced or separated are at higher risk of experiencing sexual abuse. Notably, children who have no parents or foster parents are 10 times more likely to be victimized than those that live with both biological parents. Trauma in childhood is interconnected, and the children that have been witnesses or victims of domestic violence are more likely to experience sexual abuse.
6. Children who have experienced sexual violence are 13.7 more likely to be victimized in adulthood.
(Victims of Crime)
Children who are sexually abused often develop low self-esteem and a distorted view of sex which, according to child sexual abuse facts, can lead to being taken advantage of by perpetrators in the future.
7. Foster children are 10 times more likely to be victims of sexual abuse.
Family structure plays a vital role in whether a child will experience sexual abuse. Notably, children who don’t live with either biological parent are at a much higher risk than children who live with their parents.
One of the most prominent myths about child sexual abuse is that all perpetrators are pedophiles. Notably, pedophile statistics show that pedophilia is a mental disorder that doesn’t directly correlate with the abuse of children. Importantly, the reasons behind sexual abuse are various and not only linked with sexual attraction. While anyone can commit sexual assault, there are some documented patterns.
8. 96% of perpetrators are male.
Studies have shown that the vast majority of perpetrators of child sexual abuse are male. Additionally, statistics show that the perpetrator is a married male in 76% of cases. General findings strongly indicate that men are more likely than women to commit sexual violence, regardless of age, gender, race, or culture.
9. 35% of male perpetrators were victims of sexual abuse themselves.
Rates of child sexual abuse were studied to try and understand the cycles of child abuse, which predicts that most abusers were at first victims. No correlation was found, although the percentage of male perpetrators that were victimized in childhood is significantly higher than that of female perpetrators. In the sample of females who reported being assaulted as children, only one went on to perpetrate sexual abuse.
10. Almost half of all perpetrators are Caucasian.
Pedophilia and child sexual assault were examined by race, and almost half of the registered sex offenders in the United States are Caucasian. Nearly 20% are African American, and another 20% are Hispanic. Race is not a predictor of child sexual abuse, but it does appear that rape is primarily a white man’s crime, regardless of the victim’s age.
11. 93% of perpetrators are known to the victim.
While the media emphasizes the notion of stranger danger and the risk of lone child molesters, statistics prove that only 7% of perpetrators are strangers to the child. Studies show that the perpetrator is most likely someone close to the child, such as a family member, neighbor, teacher, or family friend.
12. Around 30% of perpetrators are the child’s family members.
(Darkness to Light)
Very young children, in particular, are usually assaulted by family members. For example, 50% of abused six-year-olds are assaulted by someone in their family. In many reports of child rape and assault, statistics show that about 23% of teens aged 12 to 17 were abused by a family member, while 60% were abused by someone the family trusts, such as a neighbor, family friend, or teacher.
13. 20% of abusers have attacked between 10 and 40 children.
(Darkness to Light)
There are some patterns that can be established about the perpetrators of child sexual abuse. For example, child predator statistics show that one-fifth of child sex offenders have had 10 or more victims. While reading about the prevalence of this type of abuse can make it seem like everyone is a threat, the reality is that a small number of people are responsible for the vast majority of these crimes. As many as 70% of perpetrators have between one and nine victims, according to statistics on child predators.
14. 7% of students get assaulted by someone working in the school system.
(The Gomez Firm)
Childhood sexual abuse covers a large time frame from infancy until the age of 18, making school a place where sexual abuse sometimes occurs. According to a survey of more than 3.5 million students, 7% have experienced inappropriate touching or sexual conduct from a teacher or school employee. Moreover, 10% of students reported receiving unwanted sexual attention from their teachers.
Peer and Sibling Sexual Abuse Statistics
While anyone can commit child sexual abuse, in a large number of cases, the perpetrator is an older child. In particular, children in their early teens are most likely to sexually abuse another child. This type of assault occurs both in homes and on school grounds and is most likely to involve multiple abusers.
15. 40% of abused children are sexually abused by another child.
(Darkness to Light)
Almost half of all sexually abused children are victimized by another child, older or physically stronger than them. In 43% of cases of molestation of children under six, the violence is committed by another child. Prevalence of child sexual abuse studies show that 14% of juvenile sexual offenders are under the age of twelve, and the victims are more often male.
16. Young teenagers are most likely to sexually assault another child.
(Darkness to Light) (OJP)
Juveniles aged 12 to 14 are most likely to commit this type of offense, but the pattern ends there. Studies on children who commit acts of sexual violence show that the behavior can vary from showing pornography to other children to more explicit actions like performing sexual acts. Many reports from children about their sexual abuse cases show that some are compulsive, repeat offenders, while other instances are seen as one-time acts of poor judgment.
17. One in seven sexual assaults by children happens during after-school hours.
(Darkness to Light, Huff Post)
Sexual assault committed by a peer or older child is more likely to occur on school grounds after school hours. Children under the age of 12 are sexually assaulted in a perpetrator’s residence 84% of the time. These types of offenders are also more likely to commit sexual abuse in a group setting, with multiple perpetrators.
Child Sexual Abuse Stats and Health
The impact of sexual abuse on a child is vast. From short-term physical issues to life-long struggles with mental health, chronic disease, addiction, and the risk of being victimized in adulthood, the adverse effects of this crime go far beyond the assault.
18. Victims of sexual assault in childhood are four times more likely to experience PTSD as adults.
Many children who are sexually abused develop immediate symptoms, such as increased anxiety, stomach aches, poor social interactions, etc.
As adults, PTSD becomes more prevalent. In particular, statistics on childhood sexual abuse show that victims are likely to have substance use disorder, mood swings, depression, and suicidal ideation.
19. Between 5% and 15% of sexually abused children suffer genital injuries.
(Victims of Crime)
In cases that include evidence of penetration, only 5% to 15% of molested children have genital injuries as physical results of the abuse. Other physical signs include bruising, scabbing, redness, and unhealthy discharge. Physical evidence is often lacking, but psychological trauma following the assault is usually evident.
20. Children who have been sexually abused are three times more likely to exhibit problems with sexual behavior.
(Darkness to Light) (Child Welfare)
Statistics on child sexual abuse show that an obvious sign that a child has been sexually abused is exhibiting sexual knowledge beyond their age. Either through odd or inappropriate sexual behavior or by being fixated on sexual acts and terminology, children find a way to explain what happened. In older children, the likelihood of contracting STIs or teen pregnancy is increased.
Child Sexual Abuse Reports and the Legal System
Due to shame, fear, disbelief, and mistrust, many sexual abuse cases aren’t brought to light until much later in the victim’s life. The lack of evidence and willingness to trust a child makes these claims even more difficult to prove. That being said, cases that make it to court almost always end in a conviction.
21. Less than 35% of children’s sexual abuse claims make it to court.
(The Gomez Firm)
There are many reasons why few cases even make it to the courtroom compared to the percentage of children who are sexually abused. For many victims, there may be little or no memory of the abuse. For those that do remember, it can take great courage to disclose the abuse to someone they trust. Unfortunately, one in three adults wouldn’t believe a sexually assaulted child.
22. Only 5% of the cases include medical evidence.
(The Gomez Firm)
Statistics on child sexual abuse show that because it is so common for children to wait to disclose what has happened to them, the ability to present physical evidence in court cases is often impossible. In many instances, there is no physical evidence, regardless of the disclosure period. Trusting children’s stories and investigating the accused perpetrator, no matter who they are, is the only way to build a case.
23. Most convicted abusers end up in jail.
(The Gomez Firm)
In child sexual abuse cases that do make it to court, jail time is the most frequent outcome of the trial. Perpetrators of this type of crime typically serve 187 months or 15 years in prison. Upon release, they are put on a sex offender register.
The occurrence of child sexual abuse is more prevalent than many think. With 1 in 10 children experiencing some form of sexual abuse, the impacts pervade communities, regardless of race, gender, class, and age. Statistics on childhood sexual abuse show that girls are at a significantly higher risk of being sexually abused than boys.
Despite the popular stranger danger myth, the perpetrators of child sexual abuse are in most cases known to the victim and almost always male. Almost half of the assaults are committed by an older child, blurring the lines of justice for victims in a courtroom.
Believing children and adults when they disclose childhood sexual abuse is a predominant factor in addressing and preventing further abuse from occurring. Trusting victims is the only way to help them and bring the perpetrators to justice.
People Also Ask
The percentage of children who are sexually abused can be difficult to estimate due to the sensitive nature of the crime. Many victims never disclose their experiences until much later in life due to fear, shame, or inability to remember what happened. Statistics show that about 1 in 10 children will experience sexual assault before they turn 18. The stats differ by gender, with 1 in 7 girls and 1 in every 25 boys.
Sixteen in every 1,000 teens aged 12 to 17 have experienced childhood sexual abuse. It’s difficult to estimate the true number of children who experience this devastating crime, as many never disclose their experiences. Especially for children under the age of six, the inability to remember or understand what has happened makes it even more difficult to estimate how many children are impacted.
In 93% of cases, children are sexually abused by someone they know and trust. While there is a predominant myth that these crimes are committed by strangers that stalk and kidnap children, the statistics show that this occurs just 7% of the time. Perhaps more upsetting is that 30% of the time, perpetrators are part of the victim’s family.
Most survivors of childhood sexual abuse have PTSD that comes with a myriad of health issues. Perhaps the most devastating fact is the increased likelihood of being assaulted again. Additionally, almost half of survivors report issues with substance abuse in adulthood, as well as depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation or attempts, and chronic health issues.
There is a predominant theory about the cycles of violence that perpetrators of sexual abuse are victims themselves. While this is not true in most cases, one-third of male perpetrators report being victims of sexual abuse in childhood.
There is some evidence that men who experienced sexual abuse from a female in childhood are at risk of committing rape in adulthood. Child sexual abuse statistics show that this is a complex crime that can’t be explained by the cycles of violence theory alone.