Understanding the Danger of Child Sexual Abuse + Teen Sexual Assault

We all want to say or believe, “It couldn’t happen to OUR child, or in OUR family, or on MY watch.” And we are really good at convincing ourselves of such. Especially when we are caught up in the busyness of life and we exist in this space where it is hard enough to keep our kids from becoming addicted to screens, interested in the “bad-boy/girl,” or simply arguing with their siblings all the time. Can I get an amen?

How could we possibly add such a giant undertaking like being vigilant for grooming and sexual abuse or assault, when everyone we and our children spend time with is so trustworthy, so kind, so…normal?

THAT is the danger. We get comfortable in our circles, lazy in our vigilance of many things (parenting is exhausting, I get that!), and never want to assume anyone we could ever “know” would harm a child or teen. Especially MY child. Nor the kids who spend every weekend at my home– they couldn’t possibly be victims or survivors, either. We are all so normal. It is hard to believe because we don’t want to believe it. Because our minds weren’t meant to carry such weighty and dark truths.

According to The Mama Bear Effect, “95% of offenders are people known, trusted, and often related to the child, many who are juveniles themselves.” Does this mean there is a child perpetrator lurking in your circle of influence? No. Does this mean one of your children’s friends is or has been a victim of sexual abuse? Not necessarily. Does this mean your teen will definitely be sexually assaulted if allowed out of your sight? Of course not. What this DOES mean is, if your child or teen has been or ever is sexually abused/assaulted, the perpetrator is most likely or will be someone they already know.

A common statistic, also stated by The Mama Bear Effect, is “1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men are estimated to have been sexually abused during childhood.” Ruminate on that for a minute. Think of the hundreds of women and men you know, visualize them in a room, and do the math. This is not an uncommon issue, this is a widespread epidemic, and it happens most often in the silence and secrecy of families, communities, churches, and schools. In OUR city, maybe even on your street.

“In many cases, youth don’t understand the implications of what they’re doing. That is why it is up to us as adults to educate them on what is right,” the organization Darkness to Light warns us about the rape culture in which we live, where our teens are just as vulnerable as our younger children. I highly recommend reading THIS article for a story of reference. Another dependable resource, RAINN.org states, “On average, there are 321,500 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States.” That number seems out of this world large, and maybe like it doesn’t affect us personally, but when we break it down, we see our teens, especially our females, are at a much higher risk than we want to believe. And as someone who works for a local organization with women and young ladies who come to find hope and healing from past sexual trauma, I can confirm, it is happening in our high schools, our colleges, in OUR city.

Look at the numbers from RAINN.org:

  • 82% of all juvenile victims are female. 90% of adult rape victims are female.
  • Females ages 16-19 are 4 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault.
  • Women ages 18-24 who are college students are 3 times more likely than women in general to experience sexual violence. Females of the same age who are not enrolled in college are 4 times more likely.

Here are some other common statistics, from D2L.org, the NAASCA.org, and RAIIN.org:

  • Every 98 seconds someone is being sexually assaulted in America, and every 8 minutes that someone is a child.
  • Less than 1/2 of the estimated cases of sexual abuse are ever reported.
  • There are over 42 million adult survivors of child sexual abuse in America today.
  • It’s common for victims and survivors to keep silent, minimize what happened, and not tell anyone for years after the abuse or assault.

So what does this tell us as parents? We can do better, always.

Can we be so proactive to become 100% certain our children are never sexually abused?

No. But we CAN educate and equip ourselves, our children, and our community to be aware of the epidemic, not be afraid to discuss the epidemic, and accept the reality of the issue. Turning a blind eye, burying our heads in the sand, and refusing to prioritize understanding the danger is where we fail not only our children, but we essentially reveal to watching perpetrators that we are vulnerable, and we represent a people not willing to believe or stand by survivors brave enough to finally come forward about their own abuse. The impact we have in both INACTION and ACTION is more far-reaching than we can understand.

So what can we do? What are simple steps we can take to not be part of the problem?

We will dig deeper into these questions over the course of a series of short posts, but the first step is to START.

Start reading, learning, equipping, and teaching. Learn the statistics. Equip yourself and your children with the information you both need. Teach your children about body safety, and age-appropriately, SEX. Yep. Not understanding the correct context for sex can allow children to be in a sexually abusive environment and believe it is completely normal because the perpetrator is someone they trust. But if they KNOW the proper context for sex, for husband and wife, then any attempt of a sexual act will raise a red flag to them.

As we unpack the epidemic of sexual abuse and assault and what we all should be doing to raise awareness and prevention, my intent is to give you simple and effective action steps so you can move from a place of possibly feeling powerLESS, to feeling empowered and equipped.

 

What’s next?

  • Watch this short video: https://vimeo.com/327099438
  • Familiarize yourself with helpful resources. Many can be found online, such as:
    • journeytohealministries.org where you will find information, support, online and local groups available, mentoring, and other helpful resources. There, you can also learn more about our #End1in10 campaign, an effort to reduce the statistics of child sexual abuse and sexual assault.
    • themamabeareffect.org where you will find a plethora of printable and for-purchase material to assist in learning/teaching body safety, age-appropriate talks about sex, both for use in educating yourself and your children, as well as in a classroom setting for groups, etc.
    • RAINN.org where you will find easy to understand and share statistics
    • d2l.org where you will find information to help you learn the facts and access various training opportunities
  • Locate a local self-defense class or ask your local mixed martial arts facility to offer self-defense classes for younger children and teens. Many places will offer a short weekend session and teach basic self-defense moves in a few hours. Invite your friends to bring their children and teens.
  • Ask questions. The purpose of this series is to engage our community in order to educate and equip, so I would love to hear your questions and will do my best to answer them effectively.

As we uncover truths, expose reality, and refuse to shrink back, we are building a defense for our children and generations to come. As a survivor myself AND a parent of a survivor, I have seen the dangers of not knowing and the deep pain of the trauma, but I have also seen the great hope and healing available to us, and part of that is doing our part to break the cycle. Together, we can #End1in10, and I am honored to be a voice to help assist you in joining the movement.

~Emily

Emily is a wife, a homeschooling mama bear of two, Board Secretary and Events Coordinator for Journey to Heal Ministries, and an advocate for complete health–mind, body, and spirit. Emily is a survivor of child sexual abuse, but has also walked the journey of parent of a young survivor, which has helped her to find her passion in leading others to hope and healing from past sexual trauma, as well as educate and equip families and the community to raise awareness and prevention. On most days, when not taxiing children to homeschool classes, you’ll find Emily in workout clothes with dirty hair and no make-up, creating all things healthy in her kitchen. You can find her on Facebook at Emily-Carl Parker and Instagram at @homeschoolplexusmama and @thewholewellnesscommunity