The statistics on child sexual abuse are incredibly saddening. While we know it is a tragically common and underreported crime, there are still myths and stereotypes about sexual abuse and who the victims of these heinous acts are.
As more research is coming to light, it is important to take note that it is not just female children who are susceptible to sexual abuse. A 2005 study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control found that 16 percent of males were sexually abused under age 18. The National Center for Victims of Crime reports that 20 percent of adult women self-report childhood sexual assault, with between 5 and 10 percent of adult males reporting the same.
There are female perpetrators of child sexual abuse, as well
Female sexual predators also cause lasting harm to children, both male and female. You have likely heard salacious stories about female teachers having sex with male students, but there is much more to the story than this. For example, a Lucy Faith full Foundation study in the UK found that 20 percent of suspected child sexual abusers were female. And even if media coverage of instances of teacher/student abuse is reported quite differently depending on the gender of the teacher, the harm caused to the abuse student is very real. Studies have shown that male teenagers who suffered child sexual abuse have a greater risk of developing depression, alcoholism and other mental health issues later in life.
“Masculinity” and child sexual abuse
Many psychologists and experts have noted the trouble men have reporting sexual abuse they suffered as children, adolescents and teenagers. This is because it can seem “unmanly” to report sexual abuse. They may fear being laughed at, or even called “lucky,” depending on the circumstances of the abuse.
It is important to recognize that sexual abuse happens outside of the stereotypical idea of a strange man lurking outside of a playground. In reality, sexual abuse can happen to a child of any gender or gender identification, and may cause real harm. As we seek to protect children from sexual abuse of all types, it is important to recognize that sexual abuse can, and does, occur under a variety of circumstances.