About Child Sexual Abuse

Child sexual abuse is a significant problem in Maine and in the United States. In 2013, almost 50% of contacts with Maine’s sexual assault support programs were from or about someone who experienced sexual violence under the age of 18.(1) A recent national study estimates that 42.2% of female rape victims were raped before the age of 18 and 27.8% of male victims were first raped when they were ten years old or younger.(2)

It is often difficult for victims of child sexual abuse to disclose the abuse they suffer. Many child sexual abuse survivors wait until adulthood to tell someone and process the abuse they endured. Approximately 85% of minors who are sexually abused never tell, or delay telling, about the abuse.(3)

There are many reasons why victims choose not to tell anyone about the abuse or report it to law enforcement. In most child sexual abuse cases, the perpetrator is known to the minor and is often a trusted adult or family member.(4) Research indicates that the closer the victim is to the abuser, the less likely he or she will disclose the abuse.(5) In instances where the perpetrator is a close family member, such as a parent or a grandparent, the victim may not say anything for fear of what will happen to his or her family if they do so. Along with the confusion they may experience as a result of being victimized, they may also be fearful of what will happen to them if they disclose the abuse.(6) Additionally, many perpetrators use threats and intimidation to silence young victims. For some victims, sexual abuse may happen so often it becomes normalized.

Because it is so under-reported, we cannot determine the full extent of the impact of child sexual abuse. However, we know that child sexual abuse has lasting impacts on survivors, their families, and significantly impacts our communities.(7) The impacts on victims and survivors vary and most often include long-lasting physical, mental, and emotional issues.

Child sexual abuse creates substantial financial impacts as well. Costs include crisis services; medical treatment for victims/survivors (both short- and long-term, mental and physical); lifetime loss of income; expenses to the state and individuals as a result of the criminal justice process; and incarceration for perpetrators, including treatment and management (probation, the sex offender registry, etc.). According to a recent report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the total lifetime estimated financial costs associated with just one year of confirmed cases of child maltreatment (physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, and neglect) is approximately $124 billion.(8) The same study found that the lifetime cost for each victim of child maltreatment who lived was $210,012.(9)

Investing in child sexual abuse prevention – indeed, the prevention of all types of sexual violence – is paramount to ending child sexual abuse. Child sexual abuse prevention includes a willingness to model and have honest discussions with children about healthy relationships. The prevention of further sexual abuse of children is also important. This includes reporting suspected sexual abuse (this does not mean you need to investigate the abuse; it just must be a good faith report that sexual abuse is suspected) to your local law enforcement or Child Protective Services. For more information on child sexual abuse prevention efforts, visit our page on child sexual abuse prevention.


1. MECASA Center Service Statistics, 2012.
2. Black, M.C., et al. (2011). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Summary Report. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention & Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
3. Stop It Now. (2008-2013). When a child tells about sexual abuse. Retrieved from: http://www.stopitnow.org/when_a_child_tells
4. Snyder, H.N. (2000). Sexual assault of young children as reported to law enforcement: Victims, incident, and offender characteristics (NCJ 182990). Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs. Retrieved from: http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/saycrle.pdf
5. Stop It Now. (2008-2013). When a child tells about sexual abuse. Retrieved from:  http://www.stopitnow.org/when_a_child_tells
6. Ibid.
7. Fuentes-Perez, et al. (2013). Prevalence and correlates of child sexual abuse: A national study. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 54(1): 16-27.
8. Fang, X. (2012). The economic burden of child maltreatment in the United States and implications for prevention. Child Abuse and Neglect 36(2): 156-165. 9. Ibid.