During the last 20 years, we have seen an explosion in the number of revelations and lawsuits related to adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse by clergy, teachers, coaches, therapists and others in roles of authority. Every day the revelations about Jerry Sandeski’s history of child sexual abuse during the many years he ran his ‘Second Change’ non-profit in which hundreds of vulnerable boys were exposed to his care infuriate the public, and rightfully so. We know more and more about perpetrators and victims than ever. People who abuse children look and act like everyone else, and go out of their way to appear trustworthy to gain access to children. Bystanders do not effectively act to intervene. Victims suffer significant emotional and spiritual damage.
The numbers are staggering:
• One out of four girls and one out of six boys will be sexually abused by their 18th birthday (Finkelhor, 1990).
• The rate of child abuse is ten times the rate of cancer (Sadler, Chadwick, & Hensler, 1999).
• Ninety-three percent of sex offenders describe themselves as “religious” (Abel et al., 1987).
• 30-40% of victims are abused by a family member
• Another 50% by someone they know and trust
• Nearly 40% are abused by older or larger children
• More than 80% of sexual abuse cases occur in a one adult / one child situation
• Many victims of childhood sexual abuse are further victimized through sex trafficking (in which the average age of human slaver is 12), which is a local and global problem
The impact of child sexual abuse is profound. It ranges from interpersonal problems, like impaired work performance to health problems, like increase in high risk health behaviors such as smoking, substance abuse and obesity, increase in disease (COPD, Heart Disease, Liver Disease, etc.) and early death (including an increased chance of suicide).
While we are learning more about perpetrators and the impacts of child sexual abuse, we need to learn much more about reversing the patterns and impacts of abuse and transforming the lives of victims. The resources on this page are steps in this direction.
There is hope. There are maps, even though ‘the map is not the territory.’ You are part of the solution, whoever you are.
Even if you were not sexually abused as a child or no one in your family was sexually abused, you are impacted by child sexual abuse. You are impacted interpersonally, in work relationships and group effectiveness. These are more difficult to measure than the long-term expenses and $35 billion losses attributable to child sexual abuse annually in the U.S.
This number is shared at local city and county levels, paid for by taxpayers. 60% of first teen pregnancies are preceded by an incident of child sexual abuse. Young girls who are sexually abused are three times more likely to develop psychiatric disorders and/ or substance abuse problems in adulthood than girls who are not sexually abused. Male survivors of child sexual abuse are seventy percent more likely to seek psychological treatment for issue such as substance abuse, suicidal thoughts and attempted suicide. Except for murder, child sexual abuse is the most expensive victim crime in the U.S. It is time to promote healing and help end child sexual abuse everywhere. We can’t afford not to. Don’t you agree?