Child sexual abuse, also referred to as sexual molestation, consists of non-consensual, unwanted, sexually suggestive and/or forceful sexual activities with a child. When the abuse is sporadic or short-term is referred to as sexual assault. The perpetrator (the person who forces him/herself onto the child is referred to as the “abuser” or “molester.” The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) classifies sexual abuse as a sexualdysfunction disorder.
Child Sexual Abuse Can Include The Following Behaviors:
- Non-Consensual Kissing
- Non-Consensual Fondling
- Exposure of Genitals
- Sexual Suggestive Comments
- Sexual Violence
- Child Pornography
- Child Molestation
- Sexual Coercion
Why Do People Indulge in Child Sexual Abuse?
There are many reasons why a person may sexually abuse a child. The abuser does not fit one specific personality type. In addition, the abuser may have a mental illness, but that is not always the case. One thing that most sexual abusers have in common is a history of childhood abuse. It is important to note that while the percentages for child sexual abuse appear to be higher for men, women also molest children.
Who Are The Child Molestors?
Child sexual abuse is usually committed by an adult that is familiar with the child. The abuser may be a family friend, a neighbor, a teacher, relative, parent, religious leader or baby sitter. Approximately 6 to 10% of all abusers know the child they are abusing. Family members such as fathers, mothers, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc. may also abuse children. Only 1 to 10% of cases of child sexual abuse involve strangers. Women have been known to abuse boys and girls. Pedophiles are people who are sexually attracted to children. They tend to make initial contact with their victims through the internet.
Why Do Adults Sexually Abuse Children?
Adults who indulge in this form of abuse may be mentally ill, emotionally unstable and/or addicted to illegal substances. Research suggest that the majority of adults, who sexually abuse children, where sexually abused themselves during childhood.
What Are the Long-Term Effects of Child Sexual Abuse?
Children, who were abused as children, have an increased risk of psychological problems in adulthood. A child who has been sexually abused may show symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Symptoms Commonly Associated With Child Sexual Abuse:
- Nervousness (“Thumb Sucking”)
- Night Terrors/Bad Dreams
- Seductive Behaviors and/or Inappropriate Behaviors
- Behavioral Problems (Tantrums)
- Social Isolation
- Performing Acts of Cruelty (Animals, Belongings and/or People)
- Running Away From Home
- Suicide Attempts
If you are a child that is being sexually abuse, you may feel that the abuse is somehow your fault. You may experience extreme guilt and shock. It is important to remember that the abuse is not your fault. It is also important to tell someone about the abuse – a teacher, friend, a friend’s parent, your parent(s), a mentor, counselor, religious leader, babysitter, the authorities and/or a family member – whoever you think you can trust. If you do not get the help you need and deserve, you risk entering into unhealthy and/or abusive relationships as an adult. In addition, you may put yourself at risk for substance abuse problems and suicide. You may also develop a low self-esteem. Depression, eating disorders, self-destructive behaviors and anxiety-related sexual disorders are very common in adults who were sexually abused as children.
What Treatments Are Available for Child Sex Offenders?
Abuse of any kind is a terrible crime and the person who conducts it needs to undergo treatment as well as punishment. Analysis shows that the recidivism rates in sex offenders, who have undergone treatment, are high as compared to those who have not undergone treatment. Treatments may include a combination of psychotherapy and medications.
American Psychiatry Association. (2001). Child sexual abuse. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed.). Washington, D.C.
Medline Plus. (2012). Child sexual abuse. Retrieved from www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/childsexualabuse.html.
Hanson, R. K. (2002). Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment.
United States Department of Veteran Affairs. (2011). Child sexual abuse. Retrieved from www.ptsd.va.gov/public/pages/child-sexual-abuse.asp.