Understanding Sexual Behavior in Kids
No, most children who have been sexually abused do NOT go on to sexually abuse children
Just as there is no such thing as a typical “sex offender,” there is no such thing as a typical “victim.” How children process the experience of having been sexually abused varies widely and depends on many things, including whether they receive protection, acknowledgement and the help they need to address the harm done to them.
At the same time, having been sexually abused as a child is a risk factor that increases the likelihood that someone will sexually abuse children. Risk factors are not the same as “causes.” For example, being over 40 is a risk factor for getting breast cancer but it doesn’t mean you will automatically get breast cancer. The reason why we focus on risk factors is so that we can increase protective factors (for example, regular mammograms for early detection).
Being believed and supported reduces risk
For children who have been abused, being believed and supported by significant people in their lives is one of the most important factors that contribute to their healthy and safe sexual behaviors as they grown into adulthood. It is never too late for you or someone you know to get help for dealing with the impact of sexual abuse. It is never too late to offer support to someone who experienced sexual abuse as a child.
Exposure to violence can increase risk
Other factors can increase the risk that someone will sexually abuse children. For example, children who grow up in families where they are exposed to a great deal of violence or neglect are also at- risk to grow up to sexually abuse. Prevention of sexual abuse involves not just treating the child who was harmed but also addressing the family environment.
The majority of children who experience sexual abuse do not go on to sexually abuse others. It is important to be realistic about the fact that having been sexually abused is a risk factor. However, we can add protective factors to support children and help them to have positive behaviors.
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- Recognizing Warning Signs
- Definitions of Child Sexual Abuse
- How Abuse Happens
- Understanding Sexual Behavior in Kids
- Warning Signs in Adults and Children
- Warning Signs of Abuse in Children (Behavioral and Physical)
- Signs an Adult May be At-Risk to Harm a Child
- Behaviors to Watch Out for When Adults are with Children
- How Can I Tell if My Child Has Been Sexually Abused?
- Warning Signs a Young Person May Be a Target of Online Sexual Abuse
- Warning Signs of Someone's Dangerous or Illegal Online Activity
- Prevention and Safety
- Keys to Preventing Sexual Abuse of Children
- Creating a Plan for Safety
- Considering Filing Reports
- Talking About It
- Finding the Courage to Speak Up
- Speaking to Someone with a Sexual Behavior Problem
- When a Child Tells About Sexual Abuse
- How Should I Respond to the Child?
- What Should I Do after a Child Tells?
- How Can I Better Understand What My Child is Going Through?
- Possible Reactions of Non-Offending Parents and Caring Adults
- Is the Child Telling Me the Truth?
- What Might the Person Who Has Offended Be Thinking or Feeling after a Disclosure?
- Recovery and Therapy
- For Children and Adults Who Have Been Abused
- For Those At-Risk to Abuse Others or Who Have Offended
- For Parents and Caregivers
- Reporting and Legal Issues
- Filing Reports
- Child Protective Services and Police
- Legal Issues