Raising awareness about sexual abuse

Facts, Myths, and Statistics

Three binders with the words facts, myths, and statistics written on the spine
Providing facts and myths about sexual abuse is one of the ways to raise awareness about sexual abuse. Awareness of the facts is one of several preventative measures that can be taken to assist you in making better decisions to keep you and someone you know safe.

The facts, myths, and statistics provided below are selections from studies and provide factual information based on the research team’s findings. The information is not intended to diminish the possibility of risk to you or someone you know.

The fact, myths, and statistics are divided into several categories:

Sexual Abuse1 back to top

  • As many as 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 7 boys will be sexually abused at some point in their childhood. 1
  • Most perpetrators are acquaintances, but as many as 47% are family or extended family. 1
  • In as many as 93% of child sexual abuse cases, the child knows the person that commits the abuse. 2
  • Approximately 30% of cases are reported to authorities. 3
  • Approximately 1.8 million adolescents in the United States have been the victims of sexual assault. 4
  • 33% of sexual assaults occur when the victim is between the ages of 12 and 17. 5
  • 82% of all juvenile victims are female. 5
  • 69% of the teen sexual assaults reported to law enforcement occurred in the residence of the victim, the offender, or another individual. 5
  • Teens 16 to 19 years of age were 3 1/2 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault. 6
  • Approximately 1 in 5 female high school students report being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner. 7
  • Approximately 1 in 7 (13%) youth Internet users received unwanted sexual solicitations.8
  • 4% of youth Internet users received aggressive solicitations, in which solicitors made or attempted to make offline contact with youth.8
  • 9% of youth Internet users had been exposed to distressing sexual material while online.8
  • 9.2% of cases of maltreatment of children in 2010 were classified as sexual abuse. 9
  • Over 63,000 cases of child sexual abuse were reported in 2010. 9

Predation via Technology back to top

Up-close view of a woman’s hands typing on a laptop keyboard
  • Predators seek youths vulnerable to seduction, including those with histories of sexual or physical abuse, those who post sexually provocative photos/videos, and those who talk about sex with unknown people online. 10
  • 1 in 25 youths received an online sexual solicitation in which the solicitor tried to make offline contact. 10
  • In more than one-quarter (27%) of incidents, solicitors asked youths for sexual photographs of themselves. 10
  • 15% of cell-owning teens (12–17) say they have received sexually suggestive nude/seminude images of someone they know via text. 11
  • 4% of cell-owning teens (12–17) say that they have sent sexually suggestive nude/seminude messages to others via text message. 11

Victimization back to top

  • About 20 million out of 112 million women (18%) in the United States have been raped during their lifetime. 12
  • One study found that only 16% of all rapes were reported to law enforcement. 12
  • In 2006 alone, 300,000 college women (5.2%) were raped. 12
  • Among college women, about 12% of rapes were reported to law enforcement. 12
  • According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Criminal Victimization Survey, in 2010, there were 188,380 reported rapes or sexual assaults of a person 12 years or older. 13
  • In 2010, 12% of rapes and sexual assaults involved a weapon. 13
  • In 2010, 25% of the female victims of rape/sexual assault were victimized by strangers. 13
  • Children ages 12–15 have the highest percentage of sexual abuse, among all types of abuse, for children under 18 years of age. 13

Disclosure Among Children 14 back to top

Father having a serious conversation with young son
  • Myth: If a child is sexually abused, she or he will immediately come and tell.
  • Myth: Children disclose immediately after the abuse and provide a detailed account of what has occurred.
  • Myth: Children are more likely to disclose if directly questioned by their parent or an adult authority figure who can help.
  • Myth: Disclosure is always a one-time event.
  • Fact: Disclosure of sexual abuse is often delayed; children often avoid telling because they are either afraid of a negative reaction from their parents or of being harmed by the abuser. As such, they often delay disclosure until adulthood.
  • Fact: A common presumption is that children will give one detailed, clear account of abuse. This is not consistent with research; disclosures often unfold gradually and may be presented in a series of hints.
  • Fact: Children might imply something has happened to them without directly stating they were sexually abused—they may be testing the reaction to their “hint.”
  • Fact: If they are ready, children may then follow with a larger hint if they think it will be handled well.
  • Fact: It’s easy to miss hints of disclosure of abuse. As a result, a child may not receive the help needed.

Survey Results: Sexting and Technology back to top

A survey conducted in 2008 by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy found that: 15

Girl laying on the grass looking up at a cell phone
  • It was estimated that about 90% of teens and young adults are online.
  • 89% of teens had a profile on a social-networking site (e.g., MySpace, Facebook).
  • 78% of teens post photos online and 80% send/receive pictures or videos on a computer.
  • 87% of teens have and use a cell phone and 13% had or used a smartphone.
  • 68% of teens have and use a laptop and 33% have and use a Web cam.
  • 22% of teen girls and 18% of teen boys have sent/posted nude or seminude pictures or videos of themselves.
  • 39% of all teens have sent sexually suggestive messages via text, e-mail, or instant-messaging service.
  • 38% of teen girls and 39% of teen boys say they have had sexually suggestive text messages or e-mails—originally meant for someone else—shared with them.
  • 44% of both teen girls and teen boys say it is common for sexually suggestive text messages to get shared with people other than the intended recipient.
  • 36% of teen girls and 39% of teen boys say it is common for nude or seminude photos to get shared with people other than the intended recipient.
  • 51% of teen girls say pressure from a guy is a reason girls send sexy messages or images; only 18% of teen boys cited pressure from female counterparts as a reason.
  • 15% of teens who have sent or posted nude/seminude images of themselves say they have done so to someone they knew only online.
  • When stating the reasons why they sent/posted suggestive messages or nude/seminude pictures/videos, 44% said it was in response to one that was sent to them.
  • Only 4% of teens reported they posted nude or seminude pictures/videos online (e.g., on MySpace, on Facebook, in a blog).
  • Sending and posting nude or seminude photos or videos starts at a young age and becomes even more frequent as teens (ages 13 to 19) become young adults (ages 20 to 26).

Internet-Initiated Sex Crimes Against Minors – A National Survey16 back to top

The results of the survey describe characteristics of interactions between Internet predators and their juvenile victims. The survey found that:

  • The majority of victims had met the predator willingly.
  • Of the 129 victims identified, ages 17 and younger, the face-to-face meetings had occurred in 74% of the cases, and 93% of those encounters had included sexual contact.
  • 75% of the victims were girls.
  • The majority of victims (67%) were children between the ages of 12 and 15.
  • The most common first encounter of a predator with a victim took place in an online chat room (76%).
  • In 47% of the cases, the predator offered gifts or money during the relationship-building phase.
  • Predators used less deception to befriend their online victims than experts had thought. Only 5% of the predators told their victims that they were in the same age-group as the victims. Most offenders told the victims that they were older males seeking sexual relations.
  • The victims who responded to this survey had willingly met and had sexual encounters with the predators. The authors concluded that vulnerable youth need further education regarding the negative effects of such relationships.

RReferencesback to top

  1. Briere, J., and D. M. Eliot, “Prevalence and Psychological Sequence of Self-Reported Childhood Physical and Sexual Abuse in General Population.” Child Abuse & Neglect, 2003, Vol. 27, Issue 10, pp. 1205–1222.
  2. Douglas, Emily, and D. Finkelhor, Childhood Sexual Abuse Fact Sheet. Crimes Against Children Research Center, May 2005. (http://www.unh.edu/ccrc/factsheet/pdf/CSA-FS20.pdf) (November 1, 2012)
  3. Finkelhor, D., “The Prevention of Childhood Sexual Abuse.” Future of Children, 2009, 19(2):169–94.
  4. Kilpatrick, D., R. Acierno, B. Saunders, H. Resnick, C. Best, and P. Schnurr, “National Survey of Adolescents.” Charleston, SC: Medical University of South Carolina, National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center, 1998.
  5. “Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement: Victim, Incident, and Offender Characteristics.” U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2000.
  6. “National Crime Victimization Survey.” U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1996.
  7. Silverman, J. G., A. Raj, L. A. Mucci, and J. E. Hathaway, “Dating Violence Against Adolescent Girls and Associated Substance Use, Unhealthy Weight Control, Sexual Risk Behavior, Pregnancy, and Suicidality.” Journal of the American Medical Association, 2001, Vol. 286 (No. 5).
  8. Wolak, J., K. Mitchell, and D. Finkelhor, “Online Victimization of Youth: Five Years Later.” National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, 2006. (http://www.unh.edu/ccrc/pdf/CV138.pdf) (November 1, 2012)
  9. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau, “Child Maltreatment 2010.”
  10. Wolak, Janis, J.D., David Finkelhor, Kimberly J. Mitchell, and Michele L. Ybarra, “Online ‘Predators’ and Their Victims: Myths, Realities, and Implications for Prevention and Treatment.” American Psychologist, 2008, 63:111–128. (http://www.unh.edu/ccrc/pdf/Am%20Psy%202-08.pdf) (November 1, 2012)
  11. Lenhart, Amanda, “Teens and Sexting.” Pew Internet & American Life Project, December 15, 2009. (http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2009/Teens-and-Sexting.aspx) (November 1, 2012)
  12. Kilpatrick, Dean G., Ph.D., Heidi S. Resnick, Ph.D., Kenneth J. Ruggiero, Ph.D., Lauren M. Conoscenti, M.A., and Jenna McCauley, M.S., “Drug-Facilitated, Incapacitated, and Forcible Rape: A National Study,” July 2007. (https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/219181.pdf) (November 1, 2012)
  13. Truman, Jennifer l., Ph.D., BJS Statistician, “National Crime Victimization Survey 2010.” U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, September 2011. (http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/cv10.pdf) (November 1, 2012)
  14. Canadian Centre for Child Protection Inc., “Child Sexual Abuse–It Is Your Business.” (https://www.cybertip.ca/pdfs/csa_it_is_your_business_en.pdf) p. 10. (November 1, 2012)
  15. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, “Sex and Tech–Results From a Survey of Teens and Young Adults.” (http://www.thenationalcampaign.org/sextech/PDF/SexTech_Summary.pdf) (November 1, 2012)
  16. Wolak, Janis, David Finkelhor, and Kimberly J. Mitchell, “Internet-Initiated Sex Crimes Against Minors: Implications for Prevention Based on Findings from a National Study.” Journal of Adolescent Health, 2004, Vol. 35 (No. 5), pp. 11–20. (http://www.unh.edu/ccrc/pdf/CV71.pdf) (November 1, 2012)