Who Abuses Children?


FACT: Those that molest children look and act just like everyone else. There are people who have or will sexually abuse children in your church, school and youth sports leagues. Abusers can be neighbors, friends and family members. Most significantly, abusers are often children themselves.

  • Family members commit 39% of the reported sexual assaults on children (Snyder, 2000).    
  • 56% of those that sexually abuse a child are acquaintances of either the child or the family (Snyder, 2000).    
  • Only 5% of sexual abuse is perpetrated by a stranger (Snyder, 2000).    
  • The younger the victim, the more likely it is that the abuser is a family member. 50% of those molesting a child under 6 were family members. 23% of those abusing a 12-17 year-old child were family members (Snyder, 2000).    
  • 34% of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by juveniles. In fact, 7% of sexual abuse is perpetrated by youth under the age of 12 (Snyder, 2000).    
  • The younger the child victim, the more likely it is that the perpetrator is a juvenile. Juveniles are the offenders in 43% of assaults on children under age 6. 14% of these offenders are under the age of 12 (Snyder, 2000).    
  • Homosexual individuals are no more likely to sexually abuse children than heterosexual individuals.\ (Jenny, et. al., 1994).

FACT: Not everyone that sexually abuses children is a pedophile or a sex offender likely to repeat the crime. Child sexual abuse is perpetrated by a wide range of individuals with diverse motivations. It is impossible to identify specific characteristics that are common to all those that molest children.

  • Situational offenders tend to offend at times of stress, have a later onset of offending, have fewer, often familial victims, and have a general preference for adult partners (Abel, Mittleman, and Becker, 1985).    
  • Pedophilic offenders often start offending at an early age and often have a large number of victims who are frequently extrafamilial (Abel, Mittleman, and Becker,1985).    
  • 70% of child sex offenders have between 1 and 9 victims; 20% have 10 to 40 victims (Elliott & Kilcoyne, 1995).    
  • Of the small percentage of perpetrators that have large numbers of victims, the number of victims can be staggering. A study of pedophiles that molest boys had committed an average of 282 offenses against 150 victims (Grossman, et. al., 1999).    
  • Research suggests that incest offenders re-offend at approximately half the rate of "acquaintance" child molesters. (Grossman, et. al., 1999) In one study, offenders convicted of incest had re-offending rates that ranged from 4-10%, those convicted of molesting girls have rates of 10-29%, and those convicted of molesting boys have rates of 13-40%. Those convicted of raping adults typically have higher rates of re-offense (Marshall, Barbaree, 1990). These rates are likely low because not all re-offenses result in arrest or come to the attention of the authorities.

FACT: Most adolescent sex offenders are not sexual predators and do not do they meet the criteria for pedophilia. (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). Most will not go on to become adult offenders.

  • Adolescent sex offenders are more responsive to treatment than adults. They do not appear to continue to re-offend into adulthood, especially when provided with appropriate treatment (Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers, 2000).

Many of you are familiar with the statement, “One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday.” This statistic came from the original Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Over the past two decades, it has been widely used within industries that study, work with, or advocate for children. Until recently, it was also found in Darkness to Light’s prevention and education resources, including the original version of our Stewards of Children® child sexual abuse prevention program. Today, evidence suggests that child sexual abuse rates have declined significantly over the last 20 years. To determine a more current prevalence rate, we examined research data from many credible prevalence studies. Research revealed that the current rate is closer to one in 10 children. We still have our work cut out for us, but it’s wonderful to see that community efforts in child protection are paying off!

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3 Service Hours Available

Childcare Employees &

3 CEUs for Social Workers

Saturday, March 29

Stewards of Children Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Training

9:30 am to 11:30 am

Cost: $20

Includes Workbook

Contact Kim Alvarez to register or RSVP on Facebook. 

Saturday, April 26

Stewards of Children Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Training

9:30 am to 11:30 am

Cost: $20

Includes Workbook

Contact Kim Alvarez to register or RSVP on Facebook.com

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