Child Sexual Abuse Fact Sheet

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network recently updated their Child Sexual Abuse Fact Sheet - For Parents, Teachers, and Other Caregivers. It provides an overview of symptoms, disclosure, myths and facts, and safety education.

Myths and Facts

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Myth: Child sexual abuse is a rare experience.

Fact: Child sexual abuse is not rare. Retrospective research indicates that as many as 1 out of 4 girls and 1 out of 6 boys will experience some form of sexual abuse before the age of 18. However, because child sexual abuse is by its very nature secretive, many of these cases are never reported.

A child is most likely to be sexually abused by a stranger.

Fact: Children are most often sexually abused by someone they know and trust. Approximately three quarters of reported cases of child sexual abuse are committed by family members or other individuals who are considered part of the victim’s “circle of trust.”
Prevention Tips for Parents
  • Teach children accurate names of private body parts.
  • Avoid focusing exclusively on “stranger danger.” Keep in mind that most children are abused by someone they know and trust.
  • Teach children about body safety and the difference between “okay” and “not okay” touches.
  • Let children know that they have the right to make decisions about their bodies. Empower them to say no when they do not want to be touched, even in non-sexual ways (e.g., politely refusing hugs) and to say no to touching others.
  • Make sure children know that adults and older children never need help with their private body parts (e.g., bathing or going to the bathroom).
  • Teach children to take care of their own private parts (i.e., bathing, wiping after bathroom use) so they don’t have to rely on adults or older children for help.
  • Educate children about the difference between good secrets (like surprise parties—which are okay because they are not kept secret for long) and bad secrets (those that the child is supposed to keep secret forever, which are not okay).
  • Trust your instincts! If you feel uneasy about leaving a child with someone, don’t do it. If you’re concerned about possible sexual abuse, ask questions.


  1. Thanks for sharing these very important facts. Also I think the facts of 1 in 4 and 1 in 6 are only REPORTED. Many, many cases never get reported so the true stats, sadly, are probably much higher.

  2. I think those stats are private responses to questionaires as adults-- long past any statute of limitation and that most of that 1 in 4 was never reported to family members or the police.

    If it were higher than that the myths that influence what is taught children would make even less sense than they do with these statistics-- why would a mother or father abused by someone they trusted think strangers are the greatest danger?


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