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Topics In Brief

All Topics In Brief

Child Sexual Abuse

This edition focuses on child sexual abuse and includes:


Defining Child Sexual Abuse

Child sexual abuse is the term most often used by professionals to describe any sexual contact or activity between a child and an adult. Categories of sexual abuse include child pornography, child prostitution, exhibitionism, incest, molestation, pedophilia, rape, and statutory rape. (Kempe, 1984). (Date rape and dating violence will be the topics of a future edition of ReCAPP and therefore are not included in this edition featuring child sexual abuse.)


The Role of Schools in Child Sexual Abuse

The magnitude of child sexual abuse is compelling. According to the National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect, at least one in three girls and one in five boys have been victims of sexual abuse before the age of 18.

Prevention programs are particularly important for school health educators because:

  • Schools see children over a period of time.
  • Sexual abuse affects the learning ability of the victim and the classroom environment.
  • As mandated reporters, schools already have a role in sexual abuse prevention; and
  • As a focal point of the community, schools help establish community standards. (Krebill, 1988)1

School health educators may be most helpful in their prevention role by becoming comfortable talking about child sexual abuse. Educators can prepare themselves for the classroom in a variety of ways. They can gain knowledge of child abuse reporting laws and school district policies; they can contact a local rape crisis or sexual abuse prevention center and become familiar with the local issues; and they can find good sexual abuse materials and references.

Taking some time to plan ahead will help any educator feel more capable of presenting the subject of sexual abuse to young people. (See Guidelines for Handling Disclosures of Child Sexual Abuse under Skills for Educators.)


Child Sexual Abuse Resources

  • The King County Sexual Assault Resource Center (in Washington) is one of many excellent resources to access information. Their web site at www.kcsarc.org/ highlights workshops and model programs for teachers and parents to explore.

  • The role of educators is addressed in an article by Cynthia Crosson Tower, entitled The Role of Educators in the Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse and Neglect, which can be found at www.calib.com/nccanch/pubs/usermanuals/educator/index.htm.

  • A Sexual Assault Information Page can be found at www.cs.utk.edu/~bartley/saInfoPage.html. This site provides information and links to a great variety of related topics including counseling, incest, prevention, and sexual harassment.

  • Child Abuse: Statistics, Research, and Resources, written by Jim Hopper, PhD, Assistant Director of Research, HRI Hospital, Brookline, Massachusetts, addresses the complex and controversial nature of sexual abuse statistics. Hopper also focuses on the prevalence of young boys as victims of sexual assault (approximately one in six boys before age 16). Check out his site at www.jimhopper.com/abstats.

  • Connecticut sexual assault information at www.connsacs.org/ includes what the victim may experience, how family and others can help, and legal advice for Connecticut residents (much of which is applicable in other states).

More information on child sexual abuse in ReCAPP includes:


New Publications from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy


The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy has recently made available three new publications on contraceptive use by sexually active teens:

  1. The Next Best Thing: Helping Sexually Active Teens Avoid Pregnancy - a reader-friendly pamphlet that highlights what the National Campaign considers the most compelling issues in the challenge to convince sexually active teens to use contraception consistently and correctly.

  2. Protection as Prevention: Contraception for Sexually Active Teens - a review by researchers Claire Brindis, Susan Pagliaro, and Laura Davis of current data on contraceptive use by teens, programs and services for sexually active teens, and policy issues.

  3. Trends in Sexual Activity and Contraceptive Use Among Teens - Elizabeth Terry and Jennifer Manlove of Child Trends look at the latest data from three nationally representative surveys of female and male teens. Among the findings - while more teens are now using contraception the first time they have sex - they are less likely than in previous years to use contraception the most recent time they've had sex.

To order these publications, go to www.teenpregnancy.org/campub.htm


1Krebill, J., Taylor, J. A Teaching Guide to Preventing Adolescent Sexual Abuse. ETR Network Publications, Santa Cruz, CA. 1988.