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We have been overwhelmed the last few years as new allegations of sexual abuse come to light. It seems we have reached a watershed moment where victims of child sexual abuse are being empowered to come forward. We have seen this with USA Gymnastics athletes, the Boy Scouts of America, with sexual abuse by members of the clergy, and more.
However, when we see the news, we hear phrases like “victim says they were sexually abused” or “victim was sexually assaulted.”
Defining sexual assault is not easy because that is an umbrella term for all of the illegal abuses that take place against minors. Today, we want to define the different types of sexual assault that can happen to adults and minors alike.
Sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the consent of the victim and can include:
Child sexual abuse refers to any sexual activity with a minor. A child cannot consent to any sexual activity. As many as 93% of victims of child sexual abuse know the perpetrator. Child sexual abuse includes both physical and non-physical activity such as:
Intimate partner sexual violence refers to those who are abused by those a person is in an intimate relationship with (regardless of gender identities or sexual orientation).
Incest refers to sexual contact between family members. This is important to remember because approximately 34% of all perpetrators of child sexual abuse are family members of the child.
Drug-facilitated sexual assault occurs when alcohol and/or drugs are used to make a person more vulnerable to sexual assault. Alcohol and drugs compromise an individual’s ability to consent to sexual activity.
Sexual assault of men and boys is vastly underreported. Men and boys who have been sexually assaulted experience the same traumatic effects as anyone who is sexually abused but they can feel they should be strong enough to handle it. These cases are particularly difficult because the assault of men and boys can take place even if they experienced arousal. A physiological response does not negate the fact that assault occurred.
We know that around 10% of all children under the age of 18 will be sexually abused. Chances are, you know someone who was sexually abused as a child or you know a child who has been abused. The worst part of this is that a child is sexually abused by someone they know in more than 90% of all sexual abuse cases.
As you read above, sexual assault takes many forms. However, each type of child sexual assault will follow that child for the rest of their lives. In many instances, the abuse was committed by a member of the clergy, a faith leader the child should have been able to trust. If you suspect your child has been abused by anyone, please seek assistance from law enforcement. If you were abused as a child and are now an adult, contact a personal injury attorney who can guide you through the next steps.