This is the 1st of

10 conversations

about preventing

child sexual abuse.








Next Conversation:

#2  Who are

the Abusers?

Children are often

abused by someone they know, love or trust.








Reporting suspected child sexual abuse is everyone's responsibility - whether a mandated reporter or private citizen. If you suspect a child has been sexually abused, contact your local child protective services. To locate the child protective services reporting number in your state, as well as other resources, call Childhelp at 


















Thank you for your commitment to

protecting children.



















© 2011, Massachusetts Citizens for Children Inc.


Permission to copy, disseminate or otherwise use information from this email is granted as long as Enough Abuse Campaign/Massachusetts Citizens for Children is identified as the source. 




To be effective in preventing child sexual abuse, we must have a clear understanding of what it involves. Here is how the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (APSAC) defines child sexual abuse:


“Child sexual abuse involves any sexual activity with a child where consent is not or cannot be given. This includes sexual contact that is accomplished by force or threat of force, regardless of the age of the participants, and all sexual contact between an adult and a child, regardless of whether there is deception or the child understands the sexual nature of the activity. Sexual contact between an older and a younger child also can be abusive if there is a significant disparity in age, development, or size, rendering the younger child incapable of giving informed consent.” 

(Handbook on Child Maltreatment, 2nd Edition 2002)


In studies of adults and college students, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men report having been sexually abused or exploited before the age of 18. The average age for reported sexual abuse today is 9; 20% of its victims are even younger. This means that infants, toddlers, young children and teens are all considered at risk.


While many people think that child sexual abuse always involves rape of a child, the truth is that child sexual abuse can include both touching and non-touching behaviors.  Both are damaging to children and teens and both are against the law.


Examples of abusive touching behaviors include:

  • fondling of a child’s genitals, buttocks or breasts;
  • penetration of the child’s mouth, anus, or vagina by the abuser or with an object;
  • coercing a child to fondle him/herself, the abuser, or another child.

Examples of abusive non-touching behaviors include:

  • exposing oneself to a child;
  • viewing and violating private behaviors of a child or teen, e.g. undressing, bathing;
  • taking sexually explicit or provocative photographs of a child;
  • showing pornography or sexually suggestive images to children;
  • talking in sexually explicit or suggestive ways to children in person or by phone;
  • sending sexually explicit or suggestive messages to children by Internet or text message.



Are child sexual abuse rates declining or are they higher than ever and climbing?


You decide.  A 2006 study by researchers Finkelhor and Jones found that substantiated or confirmed rates of child sexual abuse were down 49% from 1990-2004.  However, this only included cases that were reported to authorities.  It is estimated that 80% or more of child sexual abuse cases never come to the attention of law enforcement or child protective services.


There are other troubling statistics that indicate children may be more at risk than previously thought. For example, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports that its “Cyber Tipline” currently receives 3,500 reports each week showing images and videos of children being sexually exploited.  Since 2002, the Center has reviewed 18.5 million such images. Nearly 250,000 children each year are at risk of becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation.  




As a member of the Enough Abuse Campaign, you are already taking the first step to prevent child sexual abuse by educating yourself about the problem. 


In subsequent weeks, you will learn about behaviors you should be aware of that might indicate someone poses a sexual risk to a child and what to do if you see these behaviors. You will learn how to tell typical sexual behaviors in children from those that might pose a risk to others and how to respond to them appropriately.


We will continue to test your knowledge about whether popularly held views about child sexual abuse are true or false. Importantly, we’ll be giving you some simple and clear tips that will help you feel comfortable speaking to your children about this major safety issue. 


Until our next conversation, here are three things you can do:

  • Speak to your spouse or partner and to other family members and friends about what you have learned.
  • Take the conversation to friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. Over lunch or at the water cooler test the knowledge of other adults you spend time with. Do they know non-touching behaviors can be abusive? Do they think child sexual abuse is decreasing or on the rise?
  • Encourage others to “Join the Movement” too, so together you can continue the conversation that started here today.

Preventing the sexual abuse of our children means saying “Enough” to the silence and denial that for too long have allowed abusers to go unchallenged. 


Thank you for breaking the silence by adding your voice to this growing movement and for all your efforts to keep children safe!