1 in 5
1 in 20
20% of adult females
5-10% of adult males
400,000 in a year
These are the statistics of childhood sexual abuse.
1 in 5 girls
1 in 20 boys
is a victim of child sexual abuse.
Self report studies indicate that 20% of adult females and 5-10% of adult males can recall an incident of sexual abuse or childhood sexual abuse.
If the statistics continue, as many as 400,000 babies born in the United States will be sexually abused before they turn eighteen.
~ ~ ~
Her jet black hair stands in stark contrast to her bubbly personality and award winning smile. She excuses herself to the bathroom but not before saying, “Watch my purse, there’s lipgloss in there.” Her heels click against the tile floor. I am intrigued by this little spitfire whom I know is about to give a talk to a room full of over 100 Air National Guard members. How does she do it?
Clearing her throat, she slides her hand up and down the podium. Her hands shake slightly. Even through the subtle signs of unsteadiness, she straightens her stance, presses “on” on her presentation, smiles, and begins.
“Hello, my name is Catherine.”
Catherine is a beautiful woman. She is a talented public speaker. She has a great sense of humor. She understands how to listen and how to give advice. Catherine loves her children and her grandchildren, her dogs, and her husband. But this is not the story Catherine is vocalizing.
She says, ” I tell my story not because it is unique but because I am not unique.”
Catherine is a survivor of more than twenty years of sexual abuse.
I remember reading the Judy Blume novel Summer Sisters. She vividly describes an instance when her two main characters begin exploring their sexual desires together. “When they played they took turns pretending to be Von, lying on top of one another, rubbing The Power against the other’s Power until the electrical current buzzed through their bodies.” Like all good writing, I was immediately transported back to my own experiences during this time in my life. Squeezed together under a blanket, Caitlyn and I hid behind a movable chalkboard. We giggled and teased each other as we took turns touching ourselves and each other. Our cheeks red with heat as we quickly peeked out from under the blanket to make sure no one could see us.
Exploring your sexuality as a child is normal. A young boy and girl comparing their “parts” to each other is normal. The mother of a close friend once laughed at the memory of catching her (my friend) masturbating with a stuffed animal duck.
We all do it.
Unfortunately, as I have learned from Catherine, many children are not given the opportunity to explore these sensations, these urges, with other kids their age. These opportunities are forcefully replaced with experiences by an adult or someone much older.
Childhood sexual abuse often leads to dangerous outcomes during puberty and adult life. Catherine’s voice becomes momentarily unsteady as she pauses to think of another way to say it, but she admits, “Stop having sex with children.” My own hands shake over my keyboard to translate this. The truth is we need to stop others from having sex with kids, from inappropriately touching children, and from taking their innocence away.
In America’s War on Sex, author Marty Klein states, “We’re not talking about porn that involves kids, or violent material that glamorizes coercion. Although anti-porn activists focus obsessively on these two exotic genres, they are, fortunately, a tiny minority of what’s actually available and consumed this preference represents a tiny minority of America’s 50 million porn viewers.” I am sorry but should we be okay with this simply because it is a “minority” of porn viewers? While I do not agree we should condemn all pornography, though I would argue eroticism and pornography are much different, it is not enough to say this is such a small amount it should not be included in the overall discussion.
A “few” do not automatically constitute a reason to condemn but it sure as hell should cause reason for concern. For action.
Sexual abuse is often – not always but often – a cycle. We need to provide outlets, help, and education to break that.
Catherine’s message is that one person can make a difference.
We can all make a difference.
The reality of the situation is grim. I watch as over 100 service men and women squirm in their seats. During her presentation, Catherine explains, “I want to make you uncomfortable.” As she packs up her equipment one man shakes her hand, “You made me uncomfortable. But thank you.”
We cannot allow these statistics to go unnoticed or unheard. Children are not responsible for their own protection. We need be their voice. Their protection.