Facts About Child Sexual Abuse
As part of the College’s Sexual Abuse Prevention Program, we’re providing insights and background information to help members expand their prevention knowledge. Below we highlight facts related to child sexual abuse prevention.
According to researchers, understanding the true extent of child sexual abuse is complex.1 It is the most hidden form of child abuse and the least likely to be disclosed by both child victims and adult survivors. However, understanding the scope of child sexual abuse and how it happens is an important part of helping to safeguard children in your care.
What is Child Sexual Abuse?
Child sexual abuse includes a wide range of behaviours and situations — it is not confined to just hands-on offences. Child sexual abuse may include:
- Non-contact sexual offences, such as voyeurism or exposing a child to pornography
- Contact offences such as touching or sex
- One-time occurrences to multiple experiences; one offender to multiple offenders
- The use of violence
- The use of technology
Sexual abuse is a misuse of power and control and is always a betrayal of trust.
The Scope of Child Sexual Abuse
- According to research, 1 in 10 Canadians reported being sexually victimized before they turned 16.2
- In the majority of child sexual abuse cases, the offender was known to the child.3
- The majority of adult survivors of child sexual abuse report that they did not disclose the abuse to anyone when they were children.4
- 93% of child maltreatment cases are never brought forward to police or child welfare.5
- There are strong connections between child abuse and mental health conditions.
6 Facts to Know About Child Sexual Abuse
- There is no typical sex offender:They can come from all walks of life; they can be part of families; they may be well liked and socially competent.
- Not a Stranger: In the vast majority of cases of child sexual abuse the offender is not a stranger to the child.
- No Fault of Child: Regardless of their behaviours, child sexual abuse is NEVER a child’s fault — even if they don’t say “no,” if they enjoy being around the offender, if they actively participate, or even potentially initiate some of the contact with the offender.
- Beyond Physical Abuse: Sexual abuse that does not include contact can still have a psychological and emotional impact on survivors.
- Force or Not: Child sexual abuse is not limited to situations that include force.
- Disclosure by Children: Disclosures often unfold gradually and may be presented in a series of hints to “test” adults’ reactions. If they are ready, children may follow up with a larger hint if they think it will be handled well.
For more in-depth information on child sexual abuse, grooming, disclosures, and how to support a child during disclosures, download the Canadian Centre for Child Protection’s free resources, Protecting Your Child and Child Sexual Abuse: It is Your Business.
1. Glaser, D., & Frosh, S. (1993). Child sexual abuse (2nd ed.). Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press.
2. Afifi, T. O., MacMillan, H. L., Boyle, M., Taillieu, T., Cheung, K., & Sareen, J. (2014). “Child abuse and mental disorders in Canada.” Canadian Medical Association Journal, 186(9): E324-32.
3. Cotter, A. & Beaupré, P. (2014). “Police-reported sexual offences against children and youth in Canada,” 2012. Juristat, Vol. 34, No. 1. Ottawa, ON: Statistics Canada. Cat. No. 85-002-X.
4. Hindman, J. (1999). Just before dawn: From the shadows of tradition to new reflections in trauma assessment and treatment of sexual victimization. Ontario, Oregon: AlexAndria Associates.
5. Burczycka, M. & Conroy, S. (2017). “Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile,” 2015. Juristat, Vol. 37, No. 1. Ottawa: Statistics Canada. Cat. No. 85-002-X.