Primer on child sexual abuse

Publication year


Publication Author

Áine Duggan, Gail Cooper, Rosa Cho, Sudha Rao

Children are sexually abused more than any other demographic in the U.S. — estimates are that as many as one-in-five girls and one-in-six boys will be the victims of child sexual abuse (CSA) before they turn 18 years old. Children most often spend time with people they know and should be able to trust. At home, it is parents, siblings, extended family, babysitters and family friends; outside the home, there are day care providers, teachers, coaches, religious figures, trusted neighbors, etc. From studies of perpetrators, researchers know that “child sex offenders either seek out or take advantage of opportunities to molest children with whom they are familiar.”

How can a prevention strategy develop based on the actual dynamics of child sexual abuse? Beyond the victim and perpetrator, what role does the rest of the community play? Re:Gender wants to pose questions throughout this primer, and its companion Gender Stat on Child Sexual Abuse, to prompt your thinking and ours about what it will take to fix this enduring problem. The Gender Stat is a snapshot of what is actually known about CSA through the data collected by government agencies and advocates. These two publications are the first in a larger series on sexual violence. This particular primer focuses on CSA in acknowledgement that, contrary to the media’s current focus, sexual violence begins long before college.