Providing facts and myths about sexual abuse is one of the ways to raise awareness about sexual abuse. Awareness of the facts is one of several preventative measures that can be taken to assist you in making better decisions to keep you and someone you know safe.
The facts, myths, and statistics provided below are selections from studies and provide factual information based on the research team’s findings. The information is not intended to diminish the possibility of risk to you or someone you know.
The fact, myths, and statistics are divided into several categories:
Predators seek youths vulnerable to seduction, including those with histories of sexual or physical abuse, those who post sexually provocative photos/videos, and those who talk about sex with unknown people online. 10
1 in 25 youths received an online sexual solicitation in which the solicitor tried to make offline contact. 10
In more than one-quarter (27%) of incidents, solicitors asked youths for sexual photographs of themselves. 10
15% of cell-owning teens (12–17) say they have received sexually suggestive nude/seminude images of someone they know via text. 11
4% of cell-owning teens (12–17) say that they have sent sexually suggestive nude/seminude messages to others via text message. 11
Myth: If a child is sexually abused, she or he will immediately come and tell.
Myth: Children disclose immediately after the abuse and provide a detailed account of what has occurred.
Myth: Children are more likely to disclose if directly questioned by their parent or an adult authority figure who can help.
Myth: Disclosure is always a one-time event.
Fact: Disclosure of sexual abuse is often delayed; children often avoid telling because they are either afraid of a negative reaction from their parents or of being harmed by the abuser. As such, they often delay disclosure until adulthood.
Fact: A common presumption is that children will give one detailed, clear account of abuse. This is not consistent with research; disclosures often unfold gradually and may be presented in a series of hints.
Fact: Children might imply something has happened to them without directly stating they were sexually abused—they may be testing the reaction to their “hint.”
Fact: If they are ready, children may then follow with a larger hint if they think it will be handled well.
Fact: It’s easy to miss hints of disclosure of abuse. As a result, a child may not receive the help needed.
A survey conducted in 2008 by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy found that: 15
It was estimated that about 90% of teens and young adults are online.
89% of teens had a profile on a social-networking site (e.g., MySpace, Facebook).
78% of teens post photos online and 80% send/receive pictures or videos on a computer.
87% of teens have and use a cell phone and 13% had or used a smartphone.
68% of teens have and use a laptop and 33% have and use a Web cam.
22% of teen girls and 18% of teen boys have sent/posted nude or seminude pictures or videos of themselves.
39% of all teens have sent sexually suggestive messages via text, e-mail, or instant-messaging service.
38% of teen girls and 39% of teen boys say they have had sexually suggestive text messages or e-mails—originally meant for someone else—shared with them.
44% of both teen girls and teen boys say it is common for sexually suggestive text messages to get shared with people other than the intended recipient.
36% of teen girls and 39% of teen boys say it is common for nude or seminude photos to get shared with people other than the intended recipient.
51% of teen girls say pressure from a guy is a reason girls send sexy messages or images; only 18% of teen boys cited pressure from female counterparts as a reason.
15% of teens who have sent or posted nude/seminude images of themselves say they have done so to someone they knew only online.
When stating the reasons why they sent/posted suggestive messages or nude/seminude pictures/videos, 44% said it was in response to one that was sent to them.
Only 4% of teens reported they posted nude or seminude pictures/videos online (e.g., on MySpace, on Facebook, in a blog).
Sending and posting nude or seminude photos or videos starts at a young age and becomes even more frequent as teens (ages 13 to 19) become young adults (ages 20 to 26).
Internet-Initiated Sex Crimes Against Minors – A National Survey16back to top
The results of the survey describe characteristics of interactions between Internet predators and their juvenile victims. The survey found that:
The majority of victims had met the predator willingly.
Of the 129 victims identified, ages 17 and younger, the face-to-face meetings had occurred in 74% of the cases, and 93% of those encounters had included sexual contact.
75% of the victims were girls.
The majority of victims (67%) were children between the ages of 12 and 15.
The most common first encounter of a predator with a victim took place in an online chat room (76%).
In 47% of the cases, the predator offered gifts or money during the relationship-building phase.
Predators used less deception to befriend their online victims than experts had thought. Only 5% of the predators told their victims that they were in the same age-group as the victims. Most offenders told the victims that they were older males seeking sexual relations.
The victims who responded to this survey had willingly met and had sexual encounters with the predators. The authors concluded that vulnerable youth need further education regarding the negative effects of such relationships.
Briere, J., and D. M. Eliot, “Prevalence and Psychological Sequence of Self-Reported Childhood Physical and Sexual Abuse in General Population.” Child Abuse & Neglect, 2003, Vol. 27, Issue 10, pp. 1205–1222.
Finkelhor, D., “The Prevention of Childhood Sexual Abuse.” Future of Children, 2009, 19(2):169–94.
Kilpatrick, D., R. Acierno, B. Saunders, H. Resnick, C. Best, and P. Schnurr, “National Survey of Adolescents.” Charleston, SC: Medical University of South Carolina, National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center, 1998.
“Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement: Victim, Incident, and Offender Characteristics.” U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2000.
“National Crime Victimization Survey.” U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1996.
Silverman, J. G., A. Raj, L. A. Mucci, and J. E. Hathaway, “Dating Violence Against Adolescent Girls and Associated Substance Use, Unhealthy Weight Control, Sexual Risk Behavior, Pregnancy, and Suicidality.” Journal of the American Medical Association, 2001, Vol. 286 (No. 5).
Wolak, J., K. Mitchell, and D. Finkelhor, “Online Victimization of Youth: Five Years Later.” National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, 2006. (http://www.unh.edu/ccrc/pdf/CV138.pdf) (November 1, 2012)
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau, “Child Maltreatment 2010.”
Wolak, Janis, J.D., David Finkelhor, Kimberly J. Mitchell, and Michele L. Ybarra, “Online ‘Predators’ and Their Victims: Myths, Realities, and Implications for Prevention and Treatment.” American Psychologist, 2008, 63:111–128. (http://www.unh.edu/ccrc/pdf/Am%20Psy%202-08.pdf) (November 1, 2012)
Kilpatrick, Dean G., Ph.D., Heidi S. Resnick, Ph.D., Kenneth J. Ruggiero, Ph.D., Lauren M. Conoscenti, M.A., and Jenna McCauley, M.S., “Drug-Facilitated, Incapacitated, and Forcible Rape: A National Study,” July 2007. (https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/219181.pdf) (November 1, 2012)
Truman, Jennifer l., Ph.D., BJS Statistician, “National Crime Victimization Survey 2010.” U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, September 2011. (http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/cv10.pdf) (November 1, 2012)
Wolak, Janis, David Finkelhor, and Kimberly J. Mitchell, “Internet-Initiated Sex Crimes Against Minors: Implications for Prevention Based on Findings from a National Study.” Journal of Adolescent Health, 2004, Vol. 35 (No. 5), pp. 11–20. (http://www.unh.edu/ccrc/pdf/CV71.pdf) (November 1, 2012)
Protect Your Family
Educate everyone in the family.
How to Help
Be a good listener and be patient.
Teens and Technology
44% of teens say it’s common for sexually suggestive texts to be shared.
Indicators of Abuse in Teens
Drug and alcohol abuse.
Talk With Your Child About Secrets
It’s okay not to keep some secrets, even if promised.