Abuse is a serious crime against humanity, and can have far-reaching and long-lasting consequences:
- 55% of North Americans are victims of sexual abuse. 1 in 5 male children, and 1 in 3 female children will be sexually assaulted before they reach adulthood - The National Clearinghouse on Family Violence.
- There are 1.7 million reports of child abuse each year in the U.S.
- There are 140,000 injuries to children from abuse each year.
- There were 1,400 child abuse fatalities in 2002
- Of the violent crimes in Canada, 27% are victims of family violence.
- Of the reported sexual assaults, 61% are children (the percentage may be higher because many children don’t report the abuse)
In 1999, the McCreary Adolescent Health Survey II found that:
- 35% of girls and 16% of boys between grades 7 - 12 had been sexually and/or physically abused
- Among girls surveyed, 17-year-olds experienced the highest rate of sexual abuse at 20%
In their 2001 report on Family Violence in Canada, The Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics found that children who are exposed to physical violence in their homes are:
- more than twice as likely to be physically aggressive as those who have not had such exposure;
- more likely to commit delinquent acts against property
- more likely to display emotional disorders and hyperactivity
University of Victoria's Sexual Assault Centre posts the following childhood sexual abuse statistics:
- 1 in 3 females and 1 in 6 males in Canada experience some form of sexual abuse before the age of 18.
- 80% of all child abusers are the father, foster father, stepfather or another relative or close family friend of the victim.
- Incestuous relationships last 7 years on average
- 75% of mothers are not aware of the incest in their family
- 60-80% of offenders in a study of imprisoned rapists had been molested as children
- 80% of prostitutes and juvenile delinquents, in another study, were sexually abused as children.
In their 2001 report on Family Violence in Canada, The Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics found that:
- 69% of substantiated physical abuse involved inappropriate punishment
- 68% of substantiated sexual abuse involved touching and fondling
- 58% of substantiated emotional maltreatment involved exposure to family violence
- 48% of substantiated cases of neglect primarily involved failure to supervise the child properly, which lead to physical harm
- Abusers are commonly known to the survivor
- In their 2001 report on Family Violence in Canada, The Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics found that family members, including relatives, constituted the vast majority (93%) of alleged perpetrators.
A statistical study conducted in 2001 by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics found that:
- among family assaults parents were the perpetrators in 56% of physical assaults against youths and 43% of sexual assaults against youth victims 12 to 17 years of age
- siblings were responsible for approximately 25% of physical and 26% of sexual assaults in the family that were perpetrated against youth
- extended family members committed 8% of physical, and 28% of sexual assaults against youth
Third National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS-3) US Department of Health and Human Services
- Children in mother-only households are 4 times more likely to be fatally abused than children in father-only households.
- Children in mother-only households are 40% more likely to be sexually abused than children in father-only households.
- Females are 78% of the perpetrators of fatal child abuse, 81% of natural parents who seriously abuse their children, 72% of natural parents who moderately abuse their children, and 65% of natural parents who are inferred to have abused their children.
- Natural mothers are the perpetrators of 93% of physical neglect, 86% of educational neglect, 78% of emotional neglect, 60% of physical abuse, and 55% of emotional abuse.
- When the perpetrator is a non-natural parent, that males are the perpetrators of 90% of physical abuse, 97% of sexual abuse, 74% of emotional abuse, and 82% of educational neglect.
- Children are 20 times more likely to be fatally abused, 22 times more likely to be seriously abused, 20 times more likely to be moderately abused, and 18 times more likely to be sexually abused in households earning less than $15,000 per year than in households earning more than $30,000 per year.
- Boys are four times more likely to be fatally abused and 24% more likely to be seriously abused than girls.
- Between 1986 and 1993, as the number of single-mother households increased dramatically, fatal child abuse increased 46% and serious child abuse increased four fold.
There are many possible effects stemming from abuse. When abuse occurs to a child, they are left with feelings that are difficult to understand and put into perspective. Children trust the adults in their lives to meet their needs and they believe that adults know what is good for them. When they are assaulted, they believe they deserved it, and therefore, they are bad people. They feel extreme shame and guilt AND responsible for the abuse. They feel helpless and fearful as they are not able to control or stop what is happening to them. In the case of sexual abuse, if their body responded to the stimulation, the good feelings produced from a bad experience may be confusing to a child. Therefore, they may believe that they wanted and liked the abuse.
Untreated persons of sexual, physical, or emotional abuse may struggle with:
- Controlling behavior in their relationships & environment
- An inability trust anyone, including God, which interferes with their ability to become saved
- Low self-esteem that interferes with their ability to receive love messages from others and God
- Inappropriate social behavior
- Isolation & loneliness
- Poor boundary identification
- Unrealistic expectations of others
- Perpetration of abuse unto the next generation
- Anxiety and Panic attacks
- Feelings of guilt, shame, and responsibility for what happened
- Fear & discomfort in new situations and/or around unfamiliar people
- Feelings of being marked, different, unacceptable, abnormal, and dirty
- A belief that they are stupid and incapable of achieving success
- Sabotage their own efforts to succeed
- A belief they are unacceptable to God and going to hell no matter what they do
- An inability to make decisions or trust their own opinions; look to others to affirm them in their decisions or make their decisions for them
- Ritualistic behavior, depression, eating disorders, obesity, and dizziness or numbness, feelings of impending doom
- Suicidal ideation or behavior, emotional shutdown, blocked or repressed memory, splitting of personality, self-injury such as slashing of body
- Drug & Alcohol abuse
- An abusive partner
- Learned passivity and avoidance of confrontation
- A partner with a substance abuse problem
- Unintended pregnancy
- Promiscuity or Frigidity
- Sexual dysfunction
- Preference for rough sex, bondage, and/or same sex partner
- Chronic head, face, or pelvic pain, musculoskeletal complaints, gastrointestinal distress or symptoms, and asthma or other respiratory ailments
- Poor or no parenting skills, leading to child abuse
- Anger management difficulties and aggressive behavior
The effects of an abusive childhood may appear right away, may appear in adolescence, or may show up only in adulthood. Often survivors of abuse do not cope well. However, some children are able to compensate well and some even become overachievers. A few adult survivors of childhood abuse may be competent professionals and compensate well for the adverse effects of an abusive childhood. However, when an added stressor such as a physical illness, birth of a child, or death of a family member is introduced into their lives, even they are unable to cope. No one escapes child abuse unharmed. Eventually, the history of abuse catches up to everyone.
Treatment of abuse brings relief, peace, and healing. The survivors of abuse can live healthier and learn to cope with life’s challenges with dignity and success. They can break the generational cycle of abuse and experience the joy of healthy relationships.
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Authors: Jim Folk, Marilyn Folk, BScN. Last updated June 2015.