What You Need to Know About Childhood Sexual Abuse

It's one of those unspeakable crimes, until a high-profile case like the one at Penn State makes it inescapable. Here, some basic-but-vital facts about its victims and impact.

By Akiba Solomon Nov 17, 2011

Given the widespread coverage of Gerald "Jerry" Sandusky, the former Penn State football coach accused of repeatedly raping, molesting, sodomizing and/or manipulating eight boys whom he encountered through his Second Mile charity, it’s hard to imagine that a few generations ago this form of abuse was considered rare and perpetrated almost exclusively by poor people. Today, due to the efforts of child advocates, law enforcement personnel, media, parents–and former victims–basic awareness of this life-altering crime is high. (For folks like Sandusky, who seems to need a refresher, the American Psychological Association defines child sexual abuse as "any interaction between a child and an adult (or another child) in which the child is used for the sexual stimulation of the perpetrator or an observer. A central characteristic of any abuse is domination of the child by the perpetrator through deception, force, or coercion into sexual activity. Children, due to their age, cannot give meaningful consent to sexual activity.") Still, experts say child sexual abuse remains largely underreported due to the shame, confusion and fear it causes its victims. Below, some basic facts about the prevalence and effects of child sexual abuse, a scourge that disproportionately impacts girls and women but seemingly sees no color