What is Child Sexual Abuse?

Child sexual abuse is a crime.  It’s any sexual act between an adult and a minor, or between two minors when one uses power over another.  

According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s resources¹, CSA includes an adult or more powerful youth forcing, coercing, tricking, persuading a child into a sexual act, intercourse, touching, exploitation, indecent exposure or exhibitionism, non-touching offenses that can be equally devastating to a child’s well-being.  It can include exposing children to pornographic material, masturbating in front of a child, the use of force or coercion, and any form of molestation.


How often does it happen?

Children are victimized at a rate much higher than adults.  Nearly 70% of all reported sexually assaults (including assaults on adults) occur to children ages 17 and under.

About 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused before they turn 18 - which equates to about 1 in 7 girls and 1 in 25 boys. It is estimated that 7-12% of children are sexually abused.  As many as 400,000 babies born in the United States this year will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday, unless we do something to stop it. 


Who does it happen to?

Child sexual abuse can happen to children no matter how old they are, whether they’re a boy or girl, what neighborhood they live in, what grade they’re in, what race they are, or what religion they practice.  


Child sexual abuse isn’t about stranger danger – about 90% of victims know their abuser. They are family members including parents, grandparents, siblings, as well as coaches, family friends, teachers, babysitters or other trusted adults and youth. As many as 40% of children who are sexually abused are abused by older or more powerful children. This does not mean that all youth or adults are dangerous. It does mean that most perpetrators of CSA are not strangers.

Who perpetrates child sexual abuse?


For more information, download the Darkness to Light's Child Sexual Abuse Statistics.  Learn more about the signs and symptoms of child sexual abuse.  Join the movement to prevent child sexual abuse - attend a Stewards of Children training.