Conflict Management in Congregations, Safe Congregations, Keeping Children Safe

Sexual abuse of children is very common. According to a number of studies, between 17 and 25 percent of women report that they were sexually abused before the age of 18, and 10 and 15 percent of men were sexually abused before the age of 18. In a national study of adults aged 18 to 59, about 12 percent of the men and about 17% of the women reported that they had been sexually touched as children. [xxiii]

Who is Abused

The prevalence of childhood sexual abuse is remarkably high, and the facts often run counter to the assumptions that many people have. Both boys and girls are sexually abused, but abuses against girls predominate. Experience with childhood sexual abuse does not vary by ethnicity, race, social status, or education background of the parents. [xxiv]

  • One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn age 16. [xxv]
  • Children under the age of 12 account for half of the juvenile victims of forced sexual offenses. [xxvi]
  • Young people under age 18 make up over two thirds of all sex crime victims.
  • Girls predominate as victims of sex offenses. [xxvii] 82% of all juvenile sex crime victims under the age of 18 are female. [xxviii]
  • One of every seven victims of sexual assault reported to law enforcement agencies were under the age of six. [xxix]
  • Nearly five out of every six sexual assaults of juveniles occurred in someone's home, not a public place. [xxx]
  • Most children do not tell anyone the abuse has taken place. In a study of adults who remembered being touched sexually as a child, only one quarter of the women and one in six of the men remembered that they had told someone about this sexual contact with an older person. [xxxi]

Relationship of the Offender to the Victim

Many people believe that children are sexually abused by strangers or known sex offenders. The reality is that strangers account for a small proportion of the abuse.

  • Children know their abusers well in 90% of the cases—they are parents, family members, neighbors, clergy, coaches, and teachers. [xxxii]
  • Family friends and relatives are the primary offenders; family friends are more likely to offend with boys and relatives to offend with girls. One in seven girls is abused by a father, step father, or mother's boyfriend, although only 3% of boys are abused by people in these categories. [xxxiii]
  • One quarter of offenders of victims, ages 12 through 17 are family members. [xxxiv]
  • Only 7% of offenders of juveniles are strangers to their victims. [xxxv]

Profile of the Offender

The public image of the sex offender is a strange middle-aged man lurking at a playground eyeing potential victims. The actual profile of the offender is someone well known to the child, someone who may be a teenager, and for boys, more likely to be female than another male. The percentage of adolescents that inappropriately touch children is rarely addressed in congregational policies or screening.

  • Girls are primarily touched by men, while the boys are touched more often by women but also by men. The risk to girls is greatest from adult men (63%), followed by adolescent males (28%). The risk to boys is greatest from adolescent women (45%), followed by adolescent men (25%) and then older men (38%). [xxxvi]
  • Ninety-six percent of all offenders in sexual assaults of all ages reported to law enforcement agencies were male. [xxxvii]
  • Adults were the offenders in 60% of the sexual assaults of victims under the age of 12. [xxxviii]
  • Forty percent of the offenders of children under the age of six were other juveniles under the age of 18. [xxxix] Sixteen percent of juvenile offenders were under the age of twelve. [xl]
  • Six percent of the offenders who sexually assaulted juveniles under the age of 18 were female, with 12% of the offenders with victims under six were female. [xli]

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