You might be wondering why we need to talk about childhood sexual abuse
Content/Trigger Warning: Please be advised, this article mentions trauma-related topics which could potentially be triggering. The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) 2019, estimated that 7.5% of adults aged 18 to 74 years experienced childhood sexual abuse before the age of 16 years (3.1 million people). This includes both adult and child perpetrators. That’s why we need to talk about it! This is the fourth in a series talking about child abuse.
Child sexual abuse statistics
“The majority of victims did not tell anyone about their sexual abuse at the time. ‘Embarrassment‘ being the most common reason”, according to The Office for National Statistics (ONS) 2020. So, if victims are unable to tell or talk, someone else needs to! If no one talks about childhood sexual abuse, it will carry on. Trust me. Perpetrators will be free to continue to abuse our children.
Other figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) include:
- The abuse was most likely to have been perpetrated by a friend or acquaintance (37%); around a third (30%) were sexually abused by a stranger.
- In the year ending March 2019, the police in England and Wales recorded 73,260 sexual offences where there are data to identify the victim was a child.
- At 31 March 2019, 2,230 children in England were the subject of a child protection plan (CPP) and 120 children in Wales were on the child protection register (CPR) for experience or risk of sexual abuse.
- Sexual abuse has become the most common type of abuse counselled by Childline in recent years; it was also the most commonly reported type of abuse by adults calling the National Association for People Abused in Childhood’s (NAPAC’s) helpline in the year ending March 2019.
Are you shocked?
If these figures don’t shock you, I don’t know what will. Anyone who’s experienced childhood sexual abuse might not be shocked by the numbers. However, I’m sure they’ll have a varied and wide range of other emotions; extreme sadness — both for the other victims and themselves, hurt or fear, disgust, anger, possibly rage. They probably feel shame, dirty, or bad and have low self-esteem.
What is child sexual abuse (CSA)?
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), offers this explanation: “When a child or young person is sexually abused, they’re forced or tricked into sexual activities. They might not understand that what’s happening is abuse or that it’s wrong. And they might be afraid to tell someone. Sexual abuse can happen anywhere – and it can happen in person or online.
It’s never a child’s fault they were sexually abused – it’s important to make sure children know this.”
Types of sexual abuse
The following information is from The NSPCC in the UK, who say “there are 2 types of sexual abuse – contact and non-contact abuse. And sexual abuse can happen in person or online.
is where an abuser makes physical contact with a child. This includes:
- sexual touching of any part of a child’s body, whether they’re clothed or not.
- using a body part or object to rape or penetrate a child.
- forcing a child to take part in sexual activities.
- making a child undress or touch someone else.
- contact abuse can include touching, kissing and oral sex – sexual abuse isn’t just penetrative.
is where a child is abused without being touched by the abuser. This can be in person or online and includes:
- exposing or flashing.
- showing pornography.
- exposing a child to sexual acts.
- making them masturbate
- forcing a child to make, view or share child abuse images or videos.
- making, viewing or distributing child abuse images or videos.
- forcing a child to take part in sexual activities or conversations online or through a smartphone.
Signs of sexual abuse
Emotional and behavioural signs:
- Avoiding being alone with or frightened of people or a person they know.
- Language or sexual behaviour you wouldn’t expect them to know.
- Having nightmares or bed-wetting.
- Alcohol or drug misuse.
- Changes in eating habits, making themselves sick or developing an eating problem.
Physical signs might include:
- Bleeding, discharge, pains or soreness in their genital or anal area.
- Sexually transmitted infections.
If a child is being or has been sexually abused online, they might:
- spend a lot more or a lot less time than usual online, texting, gaming or using social media.
- seem distant, upset or angry after using the internet or texting.
- be secretive about who they’re talking to and what they’re doing online or on their mobile phone.
- have lots of new phone numbers, texts or email addresses on their mobile phone, laptop or tablet.
Children and young people might also drop hints and clues about the abuse. If an adult responsible for caring for a child is suspected of sexually abusing a child, the local child protection services should be contacted. If an adult not in a caregiving position with a child is suspected of sexual abuse, the local police should be notified. Concerns about child pornography can be reported to either the local police or:
To report abuse in the UK:
I’ll end here for now — I’m sure you’ll appreciate, it’s a tough topic to research and write about, particularly if you’ve experienced childhood sexual abuse. Next post will cover what to do, who’s at risk and more support agencies. In the meantime, I’m happy to answer any questions and look forward to reading your comments.
One last thought: if you’ve been affected by any of the above, please talk to someone – tell a friend, speak to your GP or find a therapist. You don’t have to suffer alone, you are not alone.