Knowing the facts about sexual abuse can help you keep your children safe.
What Child Sexual Abuse Is
Vermont’s child protection law (33 VSA § 4912) defines sexual abuse as any act or acts by any person involving sexual molestation or exploitation of a child, including but not limited to:
- Incest, prostitution, rape, sodomy;
- Lewd and lascivious conduct involving a child;
- Aiding, abetting, counseling, hiring, or procuring of a child to perform or participate in any photograph, motion picture, exhibition, show, representation, or other presentation which, in whole or in part, depicts sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or sadomasochistic abuse involving a child;
- Viewing, possessing, or transmitting child pornography, with the exclusion of the exchange of images between mutually consenting minors, including the minor whose image is exchanged;
- Human trafficking;
- Sexual assault;
- Luring a child; or
For more details, please see FSD Policy 50 - Child Abuse and Neglect Definitions.
How Often It Happens
Child sexual abuse happens to children of all ages, from infants to teens, and it happens more often than people think. Experts estimate that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before their 18th birthdays.
Who Sexually Abuses Children
It’s impossible to describe a typical abuser. They look and act in various ways, can be found in all areas of society and are often well-respected members of our communities. They often appear to be kind, caring people who are great with kids. Abusers work hard to cultivate this image—so people will not suspect them of, and won’t believe it if they are ever accused of, sexually abusing children.
Here’s what the research tells us:
- Nearly all child sexual abuse is committed by people known to children and families, including:
- Family members such as parents, stepparents, siblings, grandparents, uncles, and cousins; and
- People in a family’s circle of trust such as friends, neighbors, clergy members, teachers, and coaches.
- Most abusers are male — although females also sexually abuse children.
- Over a third of abusers are under the age of 20.
What abusers all have in common is this: they have thought about being sexual with children and they have acted on those thoughts.
How Sexual Abuse Happens
An abuser needs two things to sexually abuse a child:
- Access to a child; and
- Time alone with the child.
Abusers use a process known as grooming to build trust and get time alone with children. Click here to learn about the grooming process.
TIP: Eliminate or reduce one-on-one situations between adults/youth and children and you’ll lower the risk of sexual abuse. Choose group situations whenever possible.