What most people don't know is that in America the rate of child molestation for girls is between 20-30%. Let that soak in for a minute. In a room filled with 100 American girls, 20 to 30 of them have been the victims of sexual abuse, molestation, or rape. If you have 10 female friends, chances are 3 of them have been molested or abused.
The number for boys is much lower, ranging between 5-15%, but these same studies show that these numbers are likely incorrect. It appears that boys are much less likely to report sexual abuse than girls, skewing these numbers to look smaller than they actually are.
The most disturbing part of these statistics is that most of the sexual abuse and molestation that takes place is from family members or family friends. Most sexual abuse is not from a stranger. This means that the people you need to keep your eyes on the most are those that you call family.
Some families develop a coping skill by “looking the other way” when inappropriate behavior happens. Maybe it's your strange uncle who gets too touchy-feely or the grandfather who makes inappropriate remarks. Families let these behaviors continue often times by shrugging them off as harmless when in fact these are signs that sexual abuse could be happening in your family.
A large factor in sexual molestation statistics is that this behavior runs in families and can be cyclical. This means that if your parents molested you then you are much more likely to molest someone else in your family, who is more likely to molest yet another person, and the cycle of victimization continues. This cycle only ends when victims decide to reach out for help.
The following signs could mean that sexual molestation is taking place:
Many times an adult or sexual perpetrator will spend a lot of time “grooming” their victim and their families. This means taking a lot of time to get everyone comfortable with the relationship, including the victim, before anything bad happens.
Screen people very carefully if they are going to be spending lots of alone time with your kids and talk to your kids about appropriate versus inappropriate touching. It is important for kids to know what is right versus what is wrong. It is also important to let them know they can come talk to you about anything, any time, without getting in trouble.
Sexual abuse as a child has detrimental effects on development, mental health, and future success. Many of these children go years without therapy or getting any help what-so-ever – usually due to a fear of judgment or being blamed.
If you or a loved one have been the victim of sexual abuse in any way, reach out to a mental health therapist or counselor immediately. Being the victim of sexual abuse is in no way your fault. You are not broken or sick and you did not deserve to have this happen to you. Please remember that a large part of any therapists clinical work is helping people recover from sexual abuse. There is help available, and the help really works.
Therapy can help you overcome flashbacks, harmful emotions, harmful memories, low self esteem, depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, anorexia, bulimia, over-eating, substance abuse, and more. All of which can be a result of molestation.
It's never too late to get help.
Written by Brad Messenger, LMSW.