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Sexual abuse is a training ground for sex trafficking. When sexual abuse is not reported, or the victim is not believed it exacerbates the issue. Covering up sexual abuse is something that has been done by parents, relatives, pastors, teachers, counselors and family friends. There are times when this is not dealt with because the repercussions would be too messy. If sexual abuse gets swept under the carpet it leaves the victim in a more vulnerable place.
The great enemy of justice is silence and disbelief. We need to start being more proactive in the belief and investigation of sexual abuse. If we ignore this, we are ignoring the victims and normalizing the behavior. We don’t want to make victims feel unheard or unimportant just because the repercussions will be difficult. Sexual abuse is messy to deal with, but we can no longer turn a blind-eye to the reality of this problem.
The following is a short article on sexual abuse from The National Center for Victims of Crime. This shows us the extent of sexual abuse in our culture. Notice the beginning that indicates that these numbers are likely higher because of the lack of reporting.
The prevalence of child sexual abuse is difficult to determine because it is often not reported; experts agree that the incidence is far greater than what is reported to authorities. CSA is also not uniformly defined, so statistics may vary. Statistics below represent some of the research done on child sexual abuse.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Children’s Bureau report Child Maltreatment 2010 found that 9.2% of victimized children were sexually assaulted (page 24).
Studies by David Finkelhor, Director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, show that:
1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse;
Self-report studies show that 20% of adult females and 5-10% of adult males recall a childhood sexual assault or sexual abuse incident;
During a one-year period in the U.S., 16% of youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;
Over the course of their lifetime, 28% of U.S. youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;
Children are most vulnerable to CSA between the ages of 7 and 13.
According to a 2003 National Institute of Justice report, 3 out of 4 adolescents who have been sexually assaulted were victimized by someone they knew well (page 5).
A Bureau of Justice Statistics report shows 1.6 % (sixteen out of one thousand) of children between the ages of 12-17 were victims of rape/sexual assault (page 18).
A study conducted in 1986 found that 63% of women who had suffered sexual abuse by a family member also reported a rape or attempted rape after the age of 14. Recent studies in 2000, 2002, and 2005 have all concluded similar results (page 8).
Children who had an experience of rape or attempted rape in their adolescent years were 13.7 times more likely to experience rape or attempted rape in their first year of college (page 9).
A child who is the victim of prolonged sexual abuse usually develops low self-esteem, a feeling of worthlessness and an abnormal or distorted view of sex. The child may become withdrawn and mistrustful of adults, and can become suicidal (page 1)
Children who do not live with both parents as well as children living in homes marked by parental discord, divorce, or domestic violence, have a higher risk of being sexually abused (page 171).
In the vast majority of cases where there is credible evidence that a child has been penetrated, only between 5 and 15% of those children will have genital injuries consistent with sexual abuse (page 2).
Child sexual abuse is not solely restricted to physical contact; such abuse could include noncontact abuse, such as exposure, voyeurism, and child pornography (page 1).
Compared to those with no history of sexual abuse, young males who were sexually abused were five times more likely to cause teen pregnancy, three times more likely to have multiple sexual partners and two times more likely to have unprotected sex, according to the study published online and in the June print issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health.
We can’t afford to be silent about sexual abuse. Whether we “live and let live,” never commenting on another person’s moral structure, or in an organization or family that deals with things “internally.” Silence is unacceptable. Statistics have shown for years now that sexual abuse is a far bigger problem than we realize in our culture. We need to learn to speak up and own up to the fact that this is happening in our neighborhoods or even closer.
Even worse is when we justify the abuse. Justifications such as, “based on what she was wearing, she was asking for it.” A girl’s clothes or lack thereof never justify sexual abuse. Justification of sexual abuse is an injustice that needs to end. We need to be comfortable protecting our children; sometimes that involves talking about sex and rejecting the false justifications that take place. I’ve heard the excuse that women “cry rape.” While this does happen, it is far more common that a girl says that she is raped or otherwise sexually assaulted and no one believes her. She is shut down and taught that her sexuality is not important.
We need to investigate the truth of the claims and not shy away from them. If we look at responses to the #metoo movement online there are a lot of justifications for the abuse that has happened. These women are further shamed by those who don’t believe them. We need to start believing these claims, not justifying the acts or the cover up. We need to give women the opportunity to speak up without fear of repercussion.
Not taking sexual abuse seriously or watching a family member sweep it under the rug adds to the normalization of sexual abuse. That way when a girl is turned out she believes that this behavior is normal, when deep down she knows that it is not. If a girl cannot trust when she reports sexual abuse that she will be protected, then her overall safety is at risk.
We need to look for the signs of sexual abuse and not be scared to ask the hard questions. We can’t be afraid of what might happen; we need to report it. We need to take it seriously until it is proven incorrect. Even if the claims seem ridiculous, we still need to investigate. We need to teach young girls that their sexuality matters.
Once we report that abuse, we need to follow up. This is not something we can let fall through the cracks of bureaucracy. If we see someone covering up or minimizing sexual assault, we need to be courageous and speak up. We cannot allow for those in power, whether a family member, government official, organizational leader or boss dismiss this. I pray that we may stand up for those who don’t have a voice and fight for them, so that they may learn their lives and sexuality are worthy of love.
This is something YOU can do. YOU can take accusations of sexual assault seriously. YOU can report it and YOU can follow up. YOU can believe a woman or girl when no one else will.
Accessed on December 19, 2018 at 12:30pm - http://victimsofcrime.org/media/reporting-on-child-sexual-abuse/child-sexual-abuse-statistics