Five Facts about Child Sexual Abuse You Need to Know
By Dr. Kimberlee Ratliff, Program Director, School Counseling, American Military University
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and the latest statistics shared by South Carolina nonprofit Darkness to Light reveal that one in 10 children are the victims of sexual abuse prior to their 18th birthday. Sexual abuse is a difficult topic to discuss, which often leads to many people avoiding the discussion instead. Unfortunately, ignoring the discussion does not make sexual abuse disappear.
Adults Can Help Prevent Child Sexual Abuse
During Child Abuse Prevention Month, I encourage all adults, whether you are a parent or not, to learn more about protecting children and minimizing any opportunity for children to be sexually abused.
We can all play a role in the prevention of child sexual abuse. To help you get started, here are five facts you need to know:
- A majority of victims know their abuser. Darkness to Light reports that 90% of victims know their abuser. It can be difficult to think that people we trust and know may victimize a child, but it is the most common scenario.
- Child abuse most often occurs in the home. It usually happens in the home of the victim or the perpetrator.
- Over 80% of child sexual abuse incidents occur in one-on-one situations. For example, an incident can occur in a situation where only one adult and one child is present or when one adolescent and one child is present.
- Only four to eight percent of child sexual abuse reports are false. Adults in custody disputes or adolescents make most of these false reports. This statistic illustrates the importance of believing the child. When a child has the courage to share, an adult should take it seriously and seek additional help to protect him or her.
- Darkness to Light also reports that most sexual assaults (1 in 7) perpetrated by juveniles occurs after school from 3-7 p.m. The most common time of the offense is between 3 to 4 p.m. Parents and caregivers need to think about how to minimize risk during that time period when children are no longer supervised at school and parents/caregivers have not yet returned home from work.
Opportunities for Abusers Should Be Minimized
Learning some of the facts and statistics about child sexual abuse is just the first step. The second step is minimizing the opportunity.
One way to protect children is to eliminate scenarios when an adult or older adolescent is left alone with a child. For example, if your child is receiving private clarinet lessons, you can be present in the room during the lesson or remain directly outside the room with the door open to minimize any opportunity for abuse.
To learn more about minimizing the opportunity, I strongly recommend Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children Training. In some areas, this training is provided in person with the help of the National Child Advocacy Center or other nonprofit organizations.
If you do not have a training opportunity near you, you can take the same training online for only $10. Providing $10 is a worthwhile investment in preventing child sexual abuse and providing them with peace of mind.
If you are concerned and have reasonable suspicion that a child you know may be a victim of sexual abuse, Darkness to Light provides a helpline that is available 24/7 at 1-866-FOR-LIGHT.
About the Author: Dr. Kimberlee Ratliff is a Program Director and Professor of School Counseling at American Public University. She earned a B.S. in Psychology at Fayetteville State University, an M.Ed. in School Counseling at Campbell University and an Ed. D. in Counseling Psychology at Argosy University/Sarasota. Kimberlee is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (WA), a National Certified Counselor (NCC) and a National Certified School Counselor (NCSC). She is a trained facilitator of Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children and served on the Child Advocacy Center’s Child Sexual Abuse Coalition in Fayetteville, NC. Her research interests include suicide prevention, multiracial identity, and child and adolescent mental health/wellness. She also serves as an advisor for Active Minds of American Public University. To contact the author, email IPSauthor@apus.edu. For more articles featuring insight from industry experts, subscribe to In Public Safety’s bi-monthly newsletter.