What Is Sexual Abuse?
Sexual abuse is any type of undesired sexual behavior by one person against another. Sexual assault usually refers to a single event or series of events within a single period of time. Some examples of abusive sexual experiences include:
- Rape: Stranger assault, acquaintance rape, statutory rape, systematic rape during war
- Molestation or incest
- Nonconsensual sexual activity
- Violent sexual activity
- Gradual development of a coercive sexual relationship
- Unwanted sexual comments, advances or harassment
- Forced marriage
- Sex trafficking and exploitation
- Sexual contact with a minor infant, child or adolescent
- Exposure to sexual matters before a child is developmentally prepared
- Witnessing or learning about sexual trauma of another person
The majority of sexual abuse happens to people under age 30 because younger people are simply easier to physically and mentally dominate. Some academics have speculated that sexual attractiveness is a risk factor, while the majority asserts that sexual crimes are fueled by the perpetrator’s desire to steal power and control from the victim.
Often perpetrators are already in a position of power over their victims at the time of the event, allowing them to commit their crimes in the first place. Perpetrators may then threaten the victims with further harm if they report it. The secrecy perpetuates the problem.
Because of the secrecy, statistics describing the numbers of victims of sexual abuse probably do not reflect the true magnitude of the problem. In any case, sexual abuse is common and universal. Perpetrators are male, female or transgender, with the majority being male. Victims are also male, female or transgender, but the majority are female.
Sexual abuse often takes place during childhood. About 60 percent of sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone within the victim’s social circle. Twenty three to thirty three percent of child sex offenders are juveniles, 40 to 80 percent of who admit to having been sexually abused themselves. Male and female children are both at risk for sexual abuse, particularly those who are taken from their parents by foster care, abduction or war. Human trafficking and sexual exploitation of minors continue to harm countless children worldwide every day.