Step 2: Minimize Opportunity | Step 3: Talk about It | Step 4: Recognize the Signs | Step 5: React Responsibly


Realities, Not Trust, Should Influence Your Decisions Regarding Children

"We live in a beautiful, safe neighborhood. None of these children could be victims of sexual abuse, right?"

It is highly likely that you know a child who has been or is being abused.

  • Experts estimate that 1 in 10 children are sexually abused before their 18th birthday.3 This means that in any classroom or neighborhood full of children, there are children who are silently bearing the burden of sexual abuse.
  • Youth are 2.5 times more likely to be raped than adults.28, 29
  • About 35% of victims are 11 years old or younger.29, 30
  • 9% of 10 to 17-year-olds receive a sexual request while on the Internet.32
  • 30% of children are abused by family members.29, 33
  • As many as 60% are abused by people the family trusts.29, 33
  • Nearly 40% are abused by older or larger children.29
  • Over 90% of children who are commercially sexually exploited have a history of child sexual abuse.26
  • About 75% of child pornography victims are living at home when they are photographed. Parents are often responsible.26

  • Sexually abused children who keep it a secret or who "tell" and are not believed are at greater risk than the general population for psychological, emotional, social, and physical problems, often lasting into adulthood. It is also likely that you know an abuser. The greatest risk to children doesn't come from strangers but from friends and family.

    People who abuse children look and act just like every one else. In fact, they often go out of their way to appear trustworthy, seeking out settings where they can gain easy access to children, such as sports leagues, faith centers, clubs, and schools.

“It can't happen in my family. I could tell if someone I know is an abuser.”

Yet, in more than 90% of sexual abuse cases, the child and the child's family know and trust the abuser.29, 33

Consequences to children and to our society begin immediately. Child sexual abuse is a direct source of a number of problems facing our communities.

  • 70-80% of sexual abuse survivors report excessive drug and alcohol use.
  • One study showed that among male survivors, 50% have suicidal thoughts and more than 20% attempt suicide.
  • Young girls who are sexually abused are more likely to develop eating disorders as adolescents.
  • More than 60% of teen first pregnancies are preceded by experiences of molestation, rape or attempted rape.
  • Approximately 40% of sex offenders report sexual abuse as children.
  • Both males and females who have been sexually abused are more likely to engage in prostitution.
  • Approximately 70% of sexual offenders of children have between 1 and 9 victims; 20-25% have 10 to 40 victims.
  • Serial perpetrators may have as many as 400 victims in their lifetimes.

Step 2: Minimize Opportunity



1. Browne, A., & Finkelhor, D. (1986). Impact of child sexual abuse: A review of the research. Psychological Bulletin, 99, 66-77.
2. Lisak, D. (1994). The psychological impact of sexual abuse: Content analysis of interviews with male survivors. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 7(4),525-548.
3. Townsend, C., Rheingold, A.A., (2013). Estimating a child sexual abuse prevalence rate for practitioners: A review of child sexual abuse prevalence studies. Charleston, S.C., Darkness to Light. Retrieved from
4. Townsend, C. (2013). Prevalence and consequences of child sexual abuse compared with other childhood experiences. Charleston, S.C., Darkness to Light. Retrieved from
5. Kilpatrick, D. G., Ruggiero, K. J., Acierno, R., Saunders, B. E., Resnick, H. S., & Best, C. L. (2003). Violence and risk of PTSD, major depression, substance abuse/dependence, and comorbidity: Results from the National Survey of Adolescents. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 71, 692-700.
6. Saunders, B.E., Kilpatrick, D.G., Hanson, R.F., Resnick, H.S., & Walker, M. E. (1999). Prevalence, case characteristics, and long-term psychological correlates of child rape among women: A national survey. Child Maltreatment, 4, 187-200.
7. Dube, S. A., Anda, R. F., Whitfield, C. L., Brown, D. W., Felitti, D. J., Dong, M., & Giles, W. (2005). Long-term consequences of childhood sexual abuse by gender of the victim. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 28, 430 – 437.
8. Rohde, P., Ichikawa, L., Simon, G. E., Ludman, E. J., Linde, J. A. Jeffery, R. W., & Operskalski, B. H. (2008). Associations of child sexual and physical abuse with obesity and depression in middle-aged women. Child Abuse & Neglect, 32, 878–887.
9. Simpson, T.L. & Miller, W.R. (2002). Concomitance between childhood sexual and physical abuse and substance use problems: A review. Clinical Psychology Review, 22, 27-77.
10. Walker, E.A. Gelfand, A., Katon, W.J., Koss, M.P, Con Korff, M., Bernstien, D., et al. (1999). Medical and psychiatric symptoms in women with children and sexual abuse. Psychosomatic Medicine, 54, 658-664.
11. Dubowitz, H., Black, M., Harrington, D., Verschoore, A. (1993). A follow-up study of behavior problems associated with child sexual abuse. Child Abuse & Neglect, 17, 743-754.
12. Briscoe-Smith, A. and Hinshaw, S. (2006). Linkages between child abuse and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in girls: Behavioral and social correlates. Child Abuse and Neglect, 30, 1239-1255. 13. Noll, J.G., Trickett, P.K., & Putnam, F.W. (2003). A prospective investigation of the impact of childhood sexual abuse on the development of sexuality. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 71, 575-586.
14. Paolucci, E.O, Genuis, M.L, & Violato, C. (2001). A meta-analysis of the published research on the effects of child sexual abuse. Journal of Psychology, 135, 17-36.
15. Wilson, H. & Widom, C.S. (2009). An examination of risky sexual behavior and HIV among victims of child abuse and neglect: A thirty-year follow-up. Health Psychology, 27, 149-158
16. Zierler, Sally et. al. (1991). Adult survivors of child sexual abuse and subsequent risk of HIV infection. American Journal of Public Health, 81,(5)
17. Bolen, R.M., Winter, V.R., & Hodges, L. (2013). Affect and state dysregulation as moderators of the relationship between childhood sexual abuse and nonsuicidal self- injury. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 28(1), 201-228
18. Siegal, J.A. & Williams, L.M. (2003). The relationship between child sexual abuse and female delinquency and crime: A prospective study. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 40, 71-94.
19. Daignault, I.V. & Hebert, M. (2009). Profiles of school adaptation: Social, behavioral, and academic functioning in sexually abused girls. Child Abuse & Neglect, 33, 102-115.
20. Briere, J. N. & Elliott D.M. (1994). Immediate and long term impacts of child sexual abuse. The Future of Children, 4, 54-69.
21. Widom, C.S. & Maxfield, M.G. (2001). An update on the “cycle of violence.” Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice. National Institute of Justice.
22. Arnow, B. A. (2004). Relationships between childhood maltreatment, adult health and psychiatric outcomes, and medical utilization. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 65 [suppl 12], 10 – 15.
23. Beitchman, J.H., Zucker, K.J., Hood, J.E., daCosta, G.A., Akman, D., & Cassavia, E. (1992). A review of the long-term effects of CSA. Child Abuse & Neglect, 16, 101-118.
24. Sachs-Ericsson, N., Blazer, D., Plant, E. A., & Arnow, B. (2005). Childhood sexual and physical abuse and 1-year prevalence of medical problems in the National Comorbidity Survey. Health Psychology, 24, 32 – 40.
25. Waldrop, A. E. Hanson, R. F., Resnick, H. S., Kilpatrick, D. G., Naugle, A. E., & Saunders, B. E. (2007). Risk factors for suicidal behavior among a national sample of adolescents: Implications for prevention. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 20, 869 – 879.
26. National Institute of Justice. (2007). Commercial sexual exploitation of children: What do we know and what do we do about it? (Publication NCJ 215733). US Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs.
27. Snyder, H. N. (2000). Sexual assault of young children as reported to law enforcement: Victim, incident, and offender characteristics. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Retrieved January 12, 2009 from
28. Baum, K. (2005). Juvenile victimization and offending, 1993-2003 (Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report No. NCJ209468). Washington, DC: Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.
29. Finkelhor, D. (2012). Characteristics of crimes against juveniles. Durham, NH: Crimes against Children Research Center.
30. National Crime Victimization Survey, Statistic calculated by staff at Crimes against Children Research Center. 2002.
31. Sedlak, A.J., Mettenburg, J., Basena, M., Petta, I., McPherson, K., Greene, A., and Li, S. (2010). Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS–4): Report to Congress, Executive Summary. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families.
32. Jones, L,. Mitchell, K., Finkelhor, D. (2012). Trends in youth internet victimization: Findings from three youth internet safety surveys 2000–2010, Journal of Adolescent Health 50: 179–186.
33. Julia Whealin, Ph.D. (2007-05-22). “Child Sexual Abuse”. National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, US Department of Veterans Affairs.
34. Prevent Child Abuse America (2003). Recognizing child abuse: What parents should know. Chicago, IL. Retrieved 5-31-2013 from
35. Stop It Now! (2013) Warning signs in children and adolescents of possible child sexual abuse. Northampton, MA. Retreived 5-31-2013 from
36. Everson, M., and Boat, B. (1989). False allegations of sexual abuse by children and adolescents. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 28(2), 230-235.

Darkness to Light strives to ensure that all statistics used represent the best available and most recent research and that cited references are complete and accurate. Care is taken to select studies that use sound methodology from reputable researchers.