Anneliese A Singh and April Sikes

Child sexual abuse is a widespread problem in the United States and globally. Depending on the particular study and definition used, estimates of the prevalence of child sexual abuse in the United States vary greatly from 2% to 62%.1 In 2008, the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) of the Children's Bureau reported 69,184 children (9.1% of all confirmed cases of child maltreatment) in the District of Columbia, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the fifty states were victims of sexual abuse.2 Despite this figure, it is believed that a substantial number of child sexual abuse cases remain unreported.

There has been significant work in developing a comprehensive definition of child sexual abuse, which is "any completed or attempted (non-completed) sexual act, sexual contact with, or exploitation (i.e., noncontact sexual interaction) of a child" (see3, pp. 14-16, for a full definition). A uniform definition provides researchers, practitioners, and advocates with a consistent manner in which to achieve best practices in understanding the prevalence of child sexual abuse across diverse communities, the context in which child sexual abuse occurs, and strategies for survivor healing.4-5

Children of every age, gender, sexual orientation, educational and socioeconomic status, and racial/ethnic group can encounter sexual abuse. According to Prevent Child Abuse America,6 at least 20% of American women and 5% to 16% of American men experienced some form of sexual abuse as children. Although statistics indicate that girls are more frequently the victims of sexual abuse, it is also prevalent among boys.7 For example, in the United States one in six boys will be sexually abused before reaching adult-hood.8 The highest risk for sexual abuse of boys includes those younger than the age of thirteen, who are youth of color, are not residing with their fathers, are of low socioeconomic status, and are disabled.7 In 2008, sexual abuse victims for all racial groups were reported as 10.3% White, 9.0% Native American or Pacific Islander, 8.3% Hispanic, 6.8% African American, 6.6% Asian, 5.2% American Indian, and 5.2% Multiple Race.2 Other alarming sexual abuse facts include (a) the median age for reported sexual abuse is nine years old,9 (b) 90% of child sexual abuse victims know the perpetrator in some way; 68% are abused by family members,10 (c) sexually abused children are often victims between the ages of eight and twelve years,11 (d) 20% of child sexual abuse victims are under the age of eight,12 (e) more than 60% of pregnant teens have been sexually abused,12 and (f) most child sexual abuse is committed by men; women are the abusers in 14% of cases reported against boys and 6% against girls,13 and most of them identify themselves as heterosexuals.14

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