How To Protect Children From Sexual Abuse

Protect children from sexual abuse by teaching them about boundaries and talking about their bodies, and they will not get in trouble for speaking the truth.

By Brad Nakase, Attorney

Email  |  Call (888) 600-8654

Have a quick question? I answered nearly 1500 FAQs.

Three key facts which you share with other people about child sexual abuse.

Statistically, sexual abuse on children:

  1. As much as 95% of child sexual abuse could be prevented. Today, we have access to the information and knowledge required to stop this menace.
  2. There are around 39 million adult American survivors of childhood molestation.
  3. More than 3 million children in the U.S. are victims of molestation. Most of these children try to cope with it alone, believing they cannot get help.

Start by sharing these basic facts to play your role in preventing child sexual abuse in your family and community.

But why should you take action? Shouldn’t professionals like therapists and physicians be doing this job? And shouldn’t law enforcement agencies deal with this menace?

Physicians and therapists, as well as police and courts, can help assist victims and stop predators to some extent, but they can never eliminate sexual abuse. Also, their help is sought too late. The kids have already become victims when the professionals are approached for help. So, it’s only you who can timely help the children.
There’s yet another big reason for the lack of efficacy of medical experts and law enforcement authorities during the time the offense is being committed. They can’t directly access the victim’s children and can talk to them about issues like sex only after the crime has been committed and reported.

A victim child has a high probability of themselves becoming an offender and preying on other children. Only you have direct access to your children and can talk to them before they are harmed or cause any damage to anyone else. If you know a child has been sexually abused, please contact Child Protective Services. You may also contact our sexual assault attorney for a free and confidential consultation.

Don’t lie to yourself, “It can’t happen in my own family.”

If you believe your family never had a molester or a sexually abused child, you are most probably wrong.

Most children today won’t talk about sexual abuse. They feel embarrassed that this happened to them. In many cases, they even protect the predator because s/he is a family member. They believe they are saving their loved ones from a painful situation by keeping silent.

Around one in 21 adult men and teenage boys molest kids, and around one in every 3,200 adult women or teenage girls molests children. Added together, the number of child and adult victims and the molesters is well over 5 million people (or 15% of U.S. citizens) who are either victims or offenders.

Despite these high ratios, many believe that child abuse has nothing to do with us. Most people mistakenly believe that neither their family ever had a molester nor there ever will be. To curb child sexual abuse and prevent it from occurring to your children and those around you, start by speaking to others about it and telling them the major facts about this menace.

Speaking same language

If we’re to join hands to stop child molestation. We must have a shared understanding of the relevant terms like Child, Child Molester, and Child Molestation.

Also, we need to have a fair understanding of the primary facts about this issue. What is child sexual abuse? How many American children are molested? How serious is the damage (physical, emotional, and psychological) they have suffered? What are the common characteristics of child molesters? What makes someone molest a child? And which children are at the highest risk?


  • Child: A girl or boy aged 13 or younger.
  • Child Molestation: The act wherein someone sexually touches a child.
  • Child Molester: Any adult or older child who touches a kid for sexual satisfaction.

As for the victim-molester Age Difference, it’s five years, according to the accepted medical definition. For example, if an older child of 14 years of age sexually touches a nine years old younger child, it would be considered molesting.

A professional may sometimes consider an act as child sexual abuse when the children have a mere three years of an age difference ‑ , a 6th grader touching a 4th grader, for example. The key element is the differential of strength and power between the children – the 6th grader is much stronger and more adult-like than the younger kid. However, to avoid ambiguity, we will stick to the definition of five years age gap.

Telling others facts about sexual abuse

If we are to save our children, we must have a very clear definition of sexual abuse. A major obstacle in this regard is the fear of facts.

Some people have no clear idea about molestation. They do not know that sexual touching is hugely different from hugging; therefore, they are scared to hug children, especially those who are not their own, because they might be taken for a child molester. Their fears can be calmed by informing them that there is a difference between hugging and molesting. Sexual touching occurs when a grown-up person touches the chest, hips, or genitals of a child for sexual gratification or sexually excites the child.

If you can tell this fact to your spouse, sibling, cousin, or best friend, you can tell everyone all the other facts about child molestation as well.

The fewer information people have, the more anxious they feel. Unless they have this knowledge, they will continue pretending this huge number of molested children doesn’t exist. By informing the people around them about these facts, one can help others become strong guardians of the kids in one’s community.

Statistics on sexually abused children

When you start telling the people around you about these unfortunate children of today, their first reaction is likely to be: How could somebody know that there are exactly 3 million children who are victims of molestation? The answer is: we don’t know the exact numbers, of course.

Children rarely say anything about such matters. These millions of child victims are a painful secret. Even those adults who faced sexual abuse in their childhood seldom speak out. But studies about adults have revealed that at least 3 million kids are sexually abused before reaching the age of 14 years. There were as many as 103,000 established cases of sexual abuse involving children in 1998.

For comparison, in the 1950s, when the polio epidemic was at its height, more than 20,000 cases were reported in a year. Over 56,000 cases were reported for rubella (or German measles).

The numbers of confirmed cases of child molestation are only the thin end of the wedge. Importantly, for every reported case of molestation, there are 2 to 3 other related cases that remain unreported. This is why we might never get the exact number of victim children.

However, going by the careful estimate (made based on the statistical abstract of the 1999 U.S. Census) that 2 in every 10 girl children and 1 in every 10 boy children are victims, we can say that there are surely well over 3 million victims of child sexual abuse.

Yes, three million is a shocking number. That’s 46 football stadiums full of kids who are being molested today and think they have no elders to seek help from.

The severity of the damage to sexually abused children

Some people might think there is no harm in touching a kid sexually. Some adults tell victim boys to stop whining and “act like a man. ” Many people are unsympathetic towards adult survivors and would say that whatever happened to anyone in childhood is a thing of the past. They will tell the adult survivors to get over it and overcome it.

Sexual abuse deeply harms children and causes them life-long scars. It causes such damage as would often be carried over into the adult life of the victim’s children.

This damage may include the following:

  • Trouble in establishing long-term or lasting relationships
  • Sexual acts may lead victims to contract STDs (sexually transmitted diseases)
  • Physical damage to sex organs and physical symptoms
  • Depression, mental stress, and suicidal thoughts
  • Weakening the body’s immune system, increased illnesses, and premature deaths

Besides the emotional and physical damage done to the child, the terrible secret held closely by a few family members can severely damage the family fiber in the long run – even for generations.

Who is the sexual predator of children?

Most men are child sexual abusers. The ratio of male offenders is far more than that of females. Roughly one out of every 20 males and around one out of every 3,300 females are child molesters.

Story of a molester

Kevin (not his real name) was a teenager, much like any other boy his age. He got married in his twenties and fathered two sons. Kevin’s parents felt proud of him and his family. They were also proud of the values Kevin taught his kids.

Kevin was a successful employee in his thirties and received a promotion every two to three years. The promotions brought more money but meant more travel, increased responsibility, and greater job stress.

Then, one day while Kevin was three states away, his wife received a phone call. Her loving husband had been arrested for sexually abusing a little girl. Kevin was 43 by then.

The wife remembers how she smiled into the phone, believing it could not be true. Kevin was a fine man, a very traditional and conservative soul to her. It must be somebody else with a similar name, she thought. She spelled out her husband’s full name – including his middle name. But when she realized it was indeed her husband, she was enraged. She wondered who could level a false charge on a  gentleman like Kevin. Would the defense attorney’s fees make them bankrupt? What would his colleagues and boss think about him? She had been married to Kevin for 20 years and knew him well. She knew that he could never do such a horrible thing.

But the question is: did she know Kevin?

Like any other regular woman, Kevin’s wife thought child molestation was a despicable crime and a sin. But, her husband was neither a sinner nor a criminal. His record was so clean that he had never violated a traffic sign. He was a hardworking and highly responsible man. By all means, he was a law-abiding citizen. He was a well-mannered man and, like any regular husband, cared for his family and its well-being. Religion was a significant part of Kevin’s life.

Moreover, his wife thought Kevin couldn’t be a molester since they had a healthy and hearty sex life.

The following few months brought more shocks to Kevin’s family, including his parents. He confessed to sexually molesting the little girl who had accused him. She was the daughter of one of his childhood friends.

Then they discovered there were several other victims too. Kevin had victimized no less than 23 young girls, including his two nieces – his own sister’s daughter and his sister-in-law’s daughter. Kevin had also preyed on the daughters of several of his family’s close friends.

The two nieces he had abused for years did not tell anyone. In yet another shock to his family, Kevin confessed he had been molesting his stepsister when she was a school-going kid, and he was 17. She also kept the secret.

Kevin’s extended family is destroyed. His sister-in-law and his sister will never forgive him for victimizing their daughters. The two women are also not on speaking terms with Kevin’s wife because they think she knew all along but did not do anything to stop her husband. Kevin’s parents are upset as they failed to save their young daughter and granddaughter.

Story Of Success Or Failure?

After you’ve read this story, how would you reflect on it? Does it sound like a success story? Kevin’s family sees it so.

His wife believes him when Kevin says he has learned the lesson. Kevin is fine with going to jail as he believes he deserves punishment. For him, the jail term will be his redemption. It’s over now, and he won’t ever touch a kid again. To his wife, this punishment of an otherwise nobleman is all required.
Kevin’s minister believes him too, and he has visited his prison cell to pray with him.

The judge hates such cases as he hears the troop of witnesses. He contended that the laws are there to deal with such crimes.

Kevin is now full of regret and remorse. He’s a changed man now.

Kevin was always a religious fellow and knew well that sexually abusing a kid was a sin. Following his arrest, his wife discovered a Bible in his car. Sometimes, while resisting his urge to touch a little girl, he would take help from the Bible and recite some passages to stop him from sinning. Religion, in his case, saved a few kids from sexual abuse. Still, he sexually abused around two dozen little girls.

Arresting Kevin and sending him to jail may have saved more girls. It did save Kevin’s nieces from being molested by him again.

Many people around him believe that Kevin is a story of success as he won’t molest anyone anymore. Several of the victims are receiving therapy. The offender has been punished, and victims are being treated.

But, sending child abusers to prison is not a solution as it will continue to fail our children because for punishing a predator, the justice system requires our children to be sexually abused. Authorities can’t take action unless there is a victim.

The same is the case with treating the victim’s children. It’s an ineffective strategy because the children get help only after they have been sexually abused.

The most horrifying thing in this story is the years-long waiting by the adults who were supposed to protect the victim’s children. They waited and waited powerlessly before they could help the 23 little girls. They waited while the girls were molested for years. And then they waited for a girl to break the silence before someone was willing to take action. As they waited, they let Kevin go on preying for 26 years.

Given the options available at the time, Kevin’s family did what they could do. Today, however, such a story must not be repeated because we have enough information that we can use to stop predators like Kevin before they can move from one prey to another.

The typical child molester

Kevin’s neighbors also sided with him when they learned about the accusation leveled at him by a girl living in another city. They didn’t know the little accuser, but they knew Kevin quite well. And some of them even knew Kevin’s parents.

When Kevin admitted to the charge and confessed to molesting so many others, their shock knew no limits: “He is the last person one could imagine doing such a horrible thing.” “It’s a very strange case.” “I have known him since school. I find it too hard to believe.”

Every person who knows Kevin is still sure that he’s not a monster and he’s not like a typical molester. Not only he but his wife also comes from a noble family. Kevin’s parents and his parents-in-law live in the same area and visit the same church.

Kevin was baptized in the church and is still a regular attendee. He religiously follows all the rules and regulations and pays the bills a week before the due date. He rotates his car tires and observes speed limit rules. He is a responsible father and maintains funds for his son’s education.

His wife and their neighbors believe it’s almost impossible for a common folk like Kevin to be a child molester. They believe that an exemplary husband and a responsible father like him can’t do any such thing.

They mistakenly think his exemplary family life, responsible conduct, education, and high moral values could save Kevin from becoming a sexual predator. They wrongly believe the same things to protect their kids from sexual abuse.

So, here arises the question: is this a rare case? What key facts could you tell if you lived in Kevin’s community?

You can tell this fact: Kevin is a typical child sex offender. He is educated, working, married, and religious. His case is not unusual.

Many people would tell you this couldn’t be true. But, it is true.

In the Abel and Harlow Child Molestation Prevention Study, researchers asked 4,000 admitted child sexual abusers (men aged between 18 and 80) to answer queries about their lives.

The study brings out that Kevin is a typical child molester.

Kevin is married, like 77% of those (around 4,000) child molesters who participated in the study. Kevin is religious, as were 93% of the study participants. He’s educated like many of them. Over 46% of the participants had received some college education, while another 30% had graduated from high school. Like 65% of the child abusers, Kevin had a job.

Several studies of adult victims that sought to link the molested children to lower family income and social class have failed to establish such connections. Child abusers and their victims exist almost equally in families from all income groups and social classes. Recent, more comprehensive studies show that child abusers are as equally educated, married, religious, and employed as other American males.


Contrasts: Admitted Child Molesters vs. All-American Males

Confessed Child Sexual Abusers American Men
Married or Previously Married 76% 72%
Some College Education 45% 48%
High School Education Only 30% 31%
Employed 68% 63%
Religious 92% 92%

Sources: The 1999 U.S. Census Statistical Abstract and Abel and Harlow Child Molestation Prevention Study

*The two groups comprised men aged 25 years or above.

A careful examination of molesters

Is the profile of a typical child molester something like this: a person who is educated, married, employed, and religious? Yes!

But we must be careful and ask the next relevant question: What does this data mean? To answer this question, we arrive at another finding of the above-stated study.

Being educated, married, working, and religious does not cause a person to abuse children. Rather, these qualifications only make us more American. Everyone needs to understand the molesters to protect the children from predators.

A child sex abuser not only looks like Kevin but also like most of the other people around him.

In the study involving 4,000 child abusers, the researchers found that in his apparent characteristics, the average child abuser closely resembled the average American man.

Which ethnic groups abuse children?

Is child molestation exclusive to specific ethnic groups? Most probably not. The Abel and Harlow Study suggests that every ethnic group has child molesters among their ranks. The percentages resemble the U.S. Census.


Ethnic Groups: Admitted Child Abusers vs. All-American Men

Admitted Child Sexual Abusers American Men
Caucasian 78% 71%
Hispanic/Latin-American 10% 11%
African-American 7% 13%
Asian 1% 3%
Native American 2.5% 2%

Sources: The 1999 U.S. Census and Abel and Harlow Study

Note: As many as 3,950 men who admitted to sexually abusing kids were compared against American men of different ethnic groups. In the whole sample of 15,500 men, Asians were under-represented. They were 1.2 percent. On the other hand, Native Americans got over-represented. They were 3 percent.

Which children are targeted by molesters?

Children are at the highest risk from the males in their own families as well as from the adults in the social circle of their parents. As much as 90% of molesters target kids within their families and those known to them. Research also suggests the risk to all children, irrespective of their economic and social situation. Predators belong to every segment of American society, and so do the victims.


Targeted Children for Sexual Abuse and Molestation

Biological Children 20%
Stepchildren, Foster or Adopted Children 29%
Brothers & Sisters 11%
Nephews & Nieces 19%
Grandchildren 4%
Children Left in Other’s Care 5%
Children of Neighbor or Friend 39%
Children not known to offenders 11%

Source: The Abel and Harlow Study.

Note: Since child molesters often prey on children in multiple categories, the categories total over 100%. For example, the same molester might have sexually abused his biological kid and stepchild, so we can’t say the two categories collectively represent 49%. Still, they represent a lower figure than the actual.

*Only 11% of child molesters report abusing a stranger’s child.

Now, let’s put these facts together:

  • Sex predators who target children belong to every segment of society
  • They abuse kids close to them – mostly the children who are in their own family or social circle
  • Most molesters (around 90%) report that they knew their victims very well

What to do if you catch a molester?

Sexual abuse is a serious crime. If you believe someone has molested your child or any other child, do not try to handle it yourself! When caught, a predator will always say it was their “first time” and promise never to do it again. But he will be lying, and he is good at it. Call the police and report abuse! The best thing one could do for one’s child and the other children (past or potential victims of the predator) is to report the crime to the authorities. If a molester has preyed on your child, he will do it to others, too, unless he’s stopped.

Have a quick question? We answered nearly 2000 FAQs.

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