Risk factors related to child sexual abuse: What the research says

| Apr 10, 2020 | Sexual abuse |

Child sexual abuse is more common than many people realize.

According to a report from the advocacy group Darkness to Light, about one in every 10 children are sexually abused before the age of 18. In addition, the group estimates more than half of all child sex abuse survivors never tell anyone about what happened.

Risk factors associated with child sexual abuse

Parents and loved ones want to protect children from sexual abuse. The difficult reality, however, is that certain external factors can put kids more at risk of experiencing this type of abuse. There is research we can look to that provides insight into these risk factors. Among them:

  • In 95% of child sex abuse cases, the abuser is someone the survivor knows. That could be a relative, stepparent, or trusted institutional leader, for example.
  • While most findings indicate girls experience sex abuse at a higher rate, the risk is still significant for boys. In fact, some studies have shown a nearly equal rate of abuse.
  • Kids from a lower socio-economic background are often at higher risk.
  • Children are generally most vulnerable from the ages of 7 through 13 – though one-fifth of all victims were abused before they were 8 years old.
  • The risk of sexual abuse may be higher for those with physical disabilities.
  • Children who live with just one or neither of their biological parents may also face a higher risk.

Sexual abuse is an experience nobody, particularly a child, should ever have to endure. For parents, guardians, caretakers and other loved ones, understanding the potential risk factors can be a way to remain vigilant.