What is child sexual abuse?

Child sexual abuse is defined as the inappropriate exposure or subjection of a child to sexual material, contact, activity or behaviour.

It includes any sexual act directed toward a child by an adult or by an older, more powerful child.

The four types of child sexual abuse

Exposure abuse

  • Exposure of the genitals to a child
  • Photographing the child’s genitals or the child for a sexual purpose
  • An adult masturbating in front of a child
  • Exposing a child to pornography or using a child in pornography
  • Talking to, taunting or teasing a child in a sexual way

Non-genital touching

  • Inappropriate oral contact (i.e.kissing)
  • Rubbing a child’s thighs in a sexualized manner and/or saying things that are sexual in nature

Genital contact

  • Touching of a child’s genitals by an adult with a body part or object
  • An adult telling a child to touch an adult’s or another’s genitals
  • Rubbing (masturbating) against a child
  • An adult putting his or her mouth on the child’s genitals or the child putting his or her mouth on the adult’s genitals

Penetrative abuse

This is any type of penetration of a child’s vagina, anus or mouth—however slight—by a penis, finger, tongue or other object.

Source: Martin, E. and Silverstone, P. (2013). How Much Child Sexual Abuse Is “Below the Surface,” and Can We Help Adults Identify It Early? Frontiers in Psychiatry, vol. 4.

Signs and symptoms

When a child is sexually abused, most of the signs of that abuse are non-specific. In other words, they could indicate a range of stressors in the child’s life. You are not expected to determine the source of these signs.

Instead, think of these signs as an indication that the child needs more attention from a trained professional.

Possible behavioural indicators

  • When sexual abuse occurs, you may notice some changes in a child’s behaviour that are generally concerning, but do not mean that sexual abuse has occurred.
  • Behavioural indicators are generally non-specific and can be caused by a range of stressful occurrences in a child’s life.
  • Some behaviours that initially appear to be concerning can be the result of normal developmental processes in the child, such as sleep and toileting problems.

Possible physical indicators

  • Most children who experience sexual abuse do not have any physical indicators of abuse. Lack of physical injury does not mean that the abuse did not occur or that the child is being dishonest.
  • Physical symptoms that can point to sexual abuse often occur for reasons other than sexual abuse, such as a fall in the playground.
  • When there is no other explanation for the presence of concerning physical signs (such as a fall in the playground that would explain that specific injury), an appropriate medical examination needs to be arranged.
  • Adults who are not specially trained to recognize and identify physical signs of sexual abuse are not qualified to determine if child sexual abuse has occurred. The child needs to be examined by a specially trained medical professional, who can be accessed through child protective services or the police.

Possible psychological indicators

  • Psychological indicators of abuse are much more likely to occur than physical indicators.
  • It is important to pay attention to sudden changes, as well as changes over time.
  • Children often experience the psychological impact internally. Just because an adult cannot see signs of psychological distress, it does not mean that the child is not experiencing it.

If you notice troubling indicators without knowing the cause, think of them as signs that more attention is required. Their presence means the child can benefit from being assessed by a professional. A trained professional can try to determine the reason for the concerning signs in a sensitive way and then decide the most appropriate course of action.

Do you suspect a child is being sexually abused?

Learn how to take action to stop child sexual abuse—take the Little Warriors Prevent It! workshop.

Click here to download a PDF reference guide.

Disclosing and reporting

When child sexual abuse is suspected

When you suspect a child has been abused, you are legally required to report your suspicion to child protective services or the police. Click here for provincial and regional reporting information.

When children disclose

If you interact with children, you may find yourself in a situation where a child tells you that he or she was sexually abused. How you respond to this disclosure can make a significant difference in that child’s life. You do not need to be an expert in child psychology or have all of the answers to respond appropriately.

What to do

  • Use good listening skills.
  • Believe the child. It is very rare for children to lie about child sexual abuse. In terms of false positives for child sexual abuse, evidence suggests that the occurrence of intentionally fabricated child sexual abuse allegations is extremely low, and thus disclosures should be taken seriously and at face value.
  • Remain as calm as possible. It is expected that you will feel a range of emotions (sadness, confusion, anger and betrayal are common). Try to keep these emotions to yourself when speaking with the child and save them to share with a supportive adult.
  • Allow for silence. Sometimes words are not necessary for a child to feel believed, cared for, or protected. Avoid filling space with idle chatter, even if this is difficult for you.
  • Avoid promising things that you cannot guarantee, such as, “I’ll make sure you never have to see that person again.” Work hard to reassure the child in ways that you can follow through on.
  • Be honest about your legal obligation to report abuse. Even if the child asks you to keep the abuse secret, private or confidential, you must report the abuse. It is best to be honest with the child that you are required to do this.
  • Avoid asking too many questions or you may silence the child. Ask yourself, “Do I need to know the answer to this question, or am I asking out of curiosity?” If you need to know the answer to determine how immediate the risk is for the child, then you can ask him or her the question.
  • Determine if the child is in immediate danger and take steps to protect the child from further abuse.
  • Report the abuse to child protective services and police.

What to say

  • Say, “I believe you.”, or “I believe that this happened to you.”
  • Tell the child that the abuse is not his or her fault. Most children blame themselves for the sexual abuse. Say, “None of this is your fault.”, or “It isn’t your fault that his happened.” Hearing this from you can make a big difference for the child’s future healing.
  • Tell the child you are glad they told you about the abuse.
  • If emotions like anger slip out, talk to the child about them. This way the child does not feel responsible for them. “I am feeling really angry at Auntie for doing these things to you. I am not angry at you.”
  • Be honest with the child. If you are not sure what is going to happen, say that. If you do not know what to do, let him or her know that. You can say, “I’m not sure what is going to happen, but I’m going to keep helping you as much as I can.” By telling you about the sexual abuse, the child is demonstrating his or her high level of trust in you. Respect this trust by being open.
  • As soon as you can, make a written record of what the child said to you and any observations you made. This will prove very helpful when reporting the details and for any subsequent investigation.

Should I make a report?

When you suspect a child has been abused, you are legally required to report your suspicion to child protective services or the police. Click here for provincial and regional reporting information and resources.

Click here to download a PDF reference guide.

Making a report of suspected child sexual abuse

When making a report:

  • Write down everything that you are concerned about before you call to report. Refer to these notes while you report. Include things the child said, as well as any concerning signs you have noticed. Date and sign your notes.
  • Call your local child protective services office. If you need help finding the number click here.
  • If the child is in immediate danger, call your local emergency police dispatch.
  • Do not hesitate to report because you do not have a lot of information. Even a small amount of information about a child can be helpful or can make a difference in the investigation process.
  • Continue reporting each time you have new information. Child services or police may decide not to investigate initially because they don’t have enough information. By sharing more information about the child, what the child has told you or what concerning signs you’ve noted, you can help authorities make the decision to investigate at a later time. Furthermore, you never know how much information child services and/or police already have on this child. What might feel like a small amount of information may add to an ongoing file or investigation of which you were not aware.
  • Talk to your own support network, and share your worries and fears throughout the reporting process. Also, lean on your support network to discuss any disappointments and successes that may come out of reporting.

Take the Little Warriors Prevent It! workshop

To learn more about disclosing and reporting child sexual abuse, take the free Little Warriors Prevent It! workshop.

Prevent It! is offered in person as a three-hour workshop for adults, facilitated by trained volunteers, or online as a 90-minute course. Click here to learn more.

Prevention information

Prevalence of child sexual abuse

Child sexual abuse is a serious issue that affects the lives of far too many children across Canada. It’s estimated that a staggering 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys will experience some form of sexual abuse. Even more disturbing is the fact that these numbers don’t reflect the 95 per cent of people whose sexual abuse is thought to go unreported.

In Canada, child sexual abuse is found within most cultures and communities. It affects children of all ages, regardless of ethnicity, socio-economic status, education or gender. Sadly, no child is completely immune to the risk of sexual abuse.

Source: Martin, E. and Silverstone, P. (2013). How Much Child Sexual Abuse Is “Below the Surface,” and Can We Help Adults Identify It Early? Frontiers in Psychiatry, vol. 4.

Devastating consequences

A child who has been sexually abused may experience a range of behavioural, physical, emotional and psychological difficulties—and the devastating consequences of abuse can extend well into adulthood. Some of the long-term effects seen in adult survivors of child sexual abuse include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Overwhelming feelings of guilt, shame and self-blame

Child sexual abuse can also deeply affect those who are trying to help a loved one recover from an abusive experience. In some cases, it can completely shatter families.

Knowledge is power

The effects of child sexual abuse are significant and far-reaching—both for the victim and those closest to them. The key to preventing it from occurring is education.

A high-level awareness of the risks simply isn’t enough to stop sexual abuse from happening. To reduce the risk of sexual abuse for children in your life, it’s important to fully understand the signs and symptoms, common misconceptions, and how to talk openly with your child about sexuality.

Fact vs. fiction

There are a number of commonly held myths about child sexual abuse, which can be very harmful to a sexually abused child. It’s important to dispel any misconceptions so that children feel like they can speak out and adults don’t overlook the signs and symptoms of abuse.

Here are a few common myths:

False allegations of child sexual abuse are common.

False allegations of sexual abuse by children are quite uncommon. A recent, large-scale Canadian study did not find any examples of intentional false allegations. In fact, children are more likely to take back what they said and insist that abuse did not happen when it did.

Trocmé and Bala, 2005 : Trocmé, N. and Bala, N. (2005). False allegations of abuse and neglect when parents separate. Child Abuse & Neglect, 29(12), 1333-1345

Sexually abused children will grow up to be offenders.

Many people believe that sexual abuse is cyclical. In fact, research indicates that few children who are sexually abused go on to sexually abuse other children when they are adults.

Alexander, A. (1999). Sexual offender treatment efficacy revisited. Sexual Abuse: A journal of Research and Treatment, 11 (2), 101-116

Predatory strangers are most likely to engage in sexually abusive behaviour.

Children are often taught by adults about “stranger danger”, but in 95 per cent of cases, a child who has been sexually abused will know their abuser. The chance of it being a stranger is much lower—although still possible.

Finkelhor,D., Ormrod, R., Turner,H., & Hamby, S (2005). The Victimization of children and youth: A comprehensive, national survey. Child maltreatment, 10 (5), 5-25, DOI: 10.1177/1077559504271287

Let’s talk

While it can be uncomfortable, speaking openly with children about sexual development and sexual abuse is key to preventing abuse. Not only does it help to foster a supportive and healthy adult-child relationship, but it also creates a safe space where children can bring up problems or concerns and talk about sexual abuse should it occur.

There are many ways to comfortably and appropriately talk with children about sexual development and child sexual abuse. Specific conversational techniques vary depending on the age of the child and your relationship to them, but these are a few guiding principles:

  • Use the proper words for body parts and processes.
  • Explain the importance of personal boundaries.
  • Reinforce that it’s all right to say ‘no’.

As children grow, they naturally become more curious about their bodies and the bodies of others. It’s important to take advantage of teachable moments in everyday life to engage in a dialogue about sexuality and sexual abuse.

Keep your eyes open

Abusers can be any age, ethnicity or sexual orientation, and may even be described as friendly or good with children. Ultimately, abusers often appear and act just like any other person.

It’s important to watch for signs of abusive behaviour in adults. In particular, be on the lookout for indications of grooming, such as excessive physical contact with children, making frequent sexual references with children present or displaying favouritism.

You should be particularly cautious when an adult insists on spending one-on-one time with a child. In this instance, you should always question whether or not alone time is necessary. If it is, be proactive about monitoring the situation by ensuring they meet in a public place or a room with a window and making it clear that you will be stopping by during their time together.

At all times, it’s important to listen to children and take notice of any physical, emotional or behavioural changes. Although such changes do not necessarily mean that a child has been sexually abused, recognizing when a child appears stressed is a critical first step in getting them the support they need—whether or not the stress is due to sexual abuse.

Take the Little Warriors Prevent It! workshop

The most important thing you can do to keep your child safe from child sexual abuse is to get educated. To learn more about child sexual abuse and how to prevent it, take the free Little Warriors Prevent It! workshop or contact preventit@littlewarriors.ca.

Internet safety

The Internet and child sexual abuse

Easy access to the Internet, smartphones and digital cameras is changing the way some child sexual abuse occurs. Because of widespread access to these forms of technology, adults need to understand the ways in which children can be exploited using the internet.

Technology and child sexual abuse in Canada

  • Images and videos in which a child’s genitals or anal region are represented for a sexual purpose are known legally as child pornography in Canada.
  • It is illegal in Canada to make, distribute, possess, or look at child pornography.
  • Even if a youth is actively engaged in a consensual sexual act, such as when two teenagers are sexually active together, it is illegal to view, make, possess or distribute images or videos of the acts.

It is possible that increased access to technology is changing rates of child sexual abuse, although this has yet to be demonstrated in the research literature. Internet-related sexual abuse has received widespread media attention since the late 1990s, and it has become a focus for political activity.

Am Psychol. 2008 Feb-Mar;63(2):111-28. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.63.2.111. Online “predators” and their victims: myths, realities, and implications for prevention and treatment. Wolak J1Finkelhor DMitchell KJYbarra ML.

Internet safety teaching points

Age Activities Risks Safety options
1-7 years Educational games
  • Unsupervised and unrestricted access to internet can expose children to inappropriate material
  • Grooming
  • Monitor internet use closely
  • Only allow educational sites
  • Use child-friendly browsers
  • Caregivers should know passwords for any email accounts
  • Read emails and messages with children
  • Ensure children never share names, schools, ages, phone numbers, passwords, or addresses
  • Never send pictures to people they don’t know personally
  • Never open an email from a stranger
  • Teach them to tell a trusted adult immediately if something happens that doesn’t “feel right”
  • Access an internet safety training resource
8-14 years
  • Homework
  • Online games
  • Social networking sites
  • Emailing
  • Instant messaging
  • Children and adults sometimes leave degrading emails or voicemails
  • Game players can speak to each other with microphones while they play which provides the opportunity for grooming to occur
  • If allowed, personal information and pictures can be available to the public
  • Child may be exposed to inappropriate or pornographic material through spam
  • Grooming
  • Repeat earlier safety lessons
  • Use an internet filtering software with your internet browser
  • Access an internet safety training resource
15-18 years
  • Homework
  • Online games
  • Social networking sites
  • Emailing
  • Instant messaging
  • Accessing healthy sexual development and sexuality related information
  • Cyber bullying
  • Sending sexual photos of self
  • Sending sexual images of self or other youth (both of which can result in criminal prosecution)
  • Being exposed to inappropriate material by accessing pornography
  • Grooming in chat rooms, on gaming sites, and on social networking sites
  • Repeat earlier safety lessons
  • Use an internet filtering software with your internet browser
  • Discuss risks of sexual offenders and grooming practices with youth
  • Monitor youth’s web pages and social networking sites
  • Openly discuss the use of and internet filters or monitoring being used and the reasons for using them
  • Access an internet safety training resource

Adapted from Canadian Centre for Child Protection Inc. https://www.cybertip.ca/app/en/internet_safety

Helpful resources

There are many resources available online to help educate adults, children and youth about different aspects of online safety.

TELUS WISE offers free workshops in schools and organizations to educate students/youth about online safety. You can find more information here.

Google Safe Search Turn Google Safe Search On/Off  Once You Turn Google Safe Search ON – Lock It!

Parental Control for I-Devices

Source: Paul Davis, Social Networking Safety

YouTube Safety Tips

(Source: Paul Davis, Social Networking Safety)

Code9 Parent is an online program for parents on the social media apps and games your children use.

For more information about Internet Safety please visit our friends at Cybertip / Internet Safety.

Statistics and research

Overall prevalence

  • 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys experience an unwanted sexual act.

    Source: Child Sexual Abuse (The Canadian Badgley Royal Commission, Report on Sexual Offences Against Children and Youths), 1984. (pg. 175)

  • 4 out of 5 incidents of sexual abuse will occur before the age of 18.

    Source: Child Sexual Abuse (The Canadian Badgley Royal Commission, Report on Sexual Offences Against Children and Youths), 1984. (pg. 175).

  • 95 per cent of child sexual abuse victims know their perpetrator.

    Source: Child Sexual Abuse (The Canadian Badgley Royal Commission, Report on Sexual Offences Against Children and Youths), 1984. (pg. 215-218).

  • Children and youth under 18 years of age are at greatest risk of being sexually assaulted by someone they know.

    Source: Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile 2007. Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. Catalogue No. 85-224-XIE, ISSN 1480-7165. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. 2007. (pg 6, 21).

  • While children and youth under the age of 18 represent only one-fifth or 21 per cent of the population, they were victims in 61 per cent of all sexual offences reported to police in 2002.

    Source: Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics – Statistics Canada Catalogue No. 85-002-XIE, Vol. 23. no. 6. Released July 2003. (pg. 7, 34)

  • In 2005, the rate of sexual assault against children and youth was over five times higher than for adults—206 children and youth victims compared to 39 adult victims for every 100,000 people.

    Source: Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile 2007. Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. Catalogue No. 85-224-XIE, ISSN 1480-7165. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. 2007. (pg. 20)

  • In 2005, girls under the age of 18 experienced rates of sexual assault that were almost four times higher than their male counterparts.

    Source: Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile 2007. Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. Catalogue No. 85-224-XIE, ISSN 1480-7165. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. 2007. (pg. 21).

  • Sexual assault against children by family members was more than three times higher for female victims than for male victims

    Source: Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile 2007. Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. Catalogue No. 85-224-XIE, ISSN 1480-7165. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. 2007. (pg. 22).

  • 54 per cent of girls under 21 have experienced sexual abuse, and 22 per cent of these female victims reported two or more sexual offences against them.
  • 60 per cent of all reported sexual assaults are against children.

    Source: Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. (2001). Family violence in Canada: A statistical profile 2001. Catalogue no. 85-224-XIE. Ottawa: Government of Canada (pg. 13)

  • Between 30 and 40 per cent of sexual assault victims are abused by a family member.
    • Non-parental relatives – 35%
    • Friends and peers – 15%
    • Stepfathers – 13%
    • Biological fathers – 9%
    • Other acquaintances – 9%
    • Boyfriend/girlfriend of biological parent – 5%
    • Biological mothers – 5%

    Source: Canadian Incidence Study (CIS) of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect – 2003: Major Findings Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada. 2005. (pg.52)

  • Only 2 per cent of substantiated child sexual abuse cases involve a stranger.

    Source: Canadian Incidence Study (CIS) of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect – 2003: Major Findings Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada. 2005. (pg.52)

  • Child and youth victims who were sexually assaulted by family members were on average 9 years old, compared to 12 years old for victims of non-family members.

    Source: Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. (2002). Family violence in Canada: A statistical profile 2002. Catalogue no. 85-224-XIE. Ottawa: Government of Canada (pg. 35).

  • Of the sexual offences against children reported to police in 2003, 64 per cent occurred in a residence, 26 per cent took place in a public/open area and 11 per cent occurred in a commercial space.

    Source: Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics – Statistics Canada Catalogue No. 85-002-XIE, Vol. 23. no. 6. Released July 2003 (pg. 9)

  • A report from 2001 found that boys 4-7 years of age were three times more often the victims of sexual abuse than boys of other ages, and girls between the ages of 4-7 and 12-17 were twice as likely to be victims of sexual abuse than girls aged 0-3 and 8-11.

    Source: The Juristat presents Child Maltreatment in Canada – Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect. Authors: Nico Trocmé and David Wolfe. Ottawa, Ontario: Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada, 2001. (pg. 24)

Consequences – individual

  • Female adult survivors of child sexual abuse are nearly three times more likely to report substance use problems.

    Source: Simpson, T.L. & Miller, W.R. (2002). Concomitance between childhood sexual and physical abuse and substance use problems: A review. Clinical Psychology Review, 22, 27-77.

  • Male adult CSA victims are 2.6 times more likely to report substance use problems.

    Source: Simpson, T.L. & Miller, W.R. (2002). Concomitance between childhood sexual and physical abuse and substance use problems: A review. Clinical Psychology Review, 22, 27-77.

  • 60 per cent of women with panic disorder are victims of child sexual abuse.

    Source: Kaplan and Sadock’s Synopsis of Psychiatry: Behavioral Sciences/Clinical Psychiatry, 2007.

  • 76 per cent of prostitutes have a history of child sexual abuse.

    Source: Health Canada, Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse, Information from the National Clearinghouse on Family Violence, 1993.

  • Adult survivors of child sexual abuse have been found to display a wide range of symptomology, including low self-esteem, guilt, self-blame, social withdrawal, marital and family problems, depression, somatic complaints, difficulties with sexuality, eroticized behaviour and irrational fears.

    Source: C. Cahill, S. Llewelyn & C. Pearson (1991). Longterm Effects of Sexual Abuse Which Occurred in Childhood: Review. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 30: 117-130.

  • Women who reported sexual abuse histories were more likely to report suicidal ideation at the time of hospitalization and a history of multiple suicide attempts.

    Source: Preliminary Report on Childhood Sexual Abuse, Suicidal Ideation, and Suicide Attempts Among Middle-Aged and Older Depressed. Nancy Talbot, Paul Duberstein, Christopher Cox, Diane Denning, Yeates Conwell. Accepted April 8, 2003. From the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, NY and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Consequences – societal

Although it is not possible to measure the personal and social costs of sexual abuse and exploitation of children and youth, most people would agree they are enormous. There are also financial costs to society as a whole.

According to the Day model, which measures the judicial, social services, education, health, employment and personal costs of violence:

The estimated annual cost of child sexual abuse in Canada exceeds $3.6 billion CAD. Each youth suicide costs $640,000 to $3,000,000.

Source: Hankivsky, O. (2003, forthcoming). Preliminary cost estimates of child sexual abuse Canada. Ottawa, ON: Health Canada.

Cost of child sexual abuse in Canada

Private Public Total
Health $5,111,410 $1,713,532,341 $1,718,643,751
Social and public services $203,805,039 $710,913,818 $914,718,857
Justice $117,359,516 $355,004,360 $472,363,876
Education/research and employment $1,140,000 $12,578,803 $13,718,833
Mortality $357,879,769 $118,150,783 $476,030,552
Morbidity $75,864,108 $25,045,852 $100,909,960
TOTAL $761,159,872 $2,935,225,957 $3,696,385,829

Source: Audra Bowlus, Katharine McKenna, Tanis Day and David Right, The Economic Costs and Consequences of Child Abuse in Canada (Ottawa: Law Commission of Canada, 2003). Found on Department of Justice Canada Website (article titled: Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children and Youth: A Fact Sheet from the Department of Justice Canada)

Perpetrator profiles

According to national statistics released in 1997:

  • Between 15 and 33 per cent of all sex offences in Canada were committed by persons under 21 years of age.
  • Prison statistics demonstrated that one in seven of those imprisoned for sexual offences against children were under the age of 21.

    Source: Adolescent Sex Offenders. (1997) National Clearinghouse on Family Violence. Cat. H72-22/3-1997E. ISBN 0-662-18255-3. (pg. 2)

A report from the province of British Columbia published in 1994 found:

  • Some offenders had abused more than 70 children before any of the victims disclose their abuse.
  • In cases in which one offender had abused a larger number of victims, the abused children were more likely to be male.

    Source: Child Youth Mental Services, British Columbia Ministry of Health, Multiple Victim Child Sexual Abuse: The impact on Communities and Implications for the Intervention Planning, Ottawa: Health Canada, Supply and Services Canada, 1994 (pg. 6)

Recent studies

A new study funded by Little Warriors and conducted at the University of Alberta has shed light on the prevalence and effects of child sexual abuse, as well as the need for programs that help adults recognize the signs that a child is being sexually abused.

The study, conducted by Erin Martin and Dr. Peter Silverstone of the Departments of Psychiatry and Neuroscience at the University of Alberta and published in the online academic journal Frontiers in Psychiatry, points to three key findings:

  • Girls are more likely to be sexually abused than boys (15 per cent and 6 per cent, respectively). This estimate includes sexual abuse involving contact—not sexual abuse involving non-contact, such as exposure to pornography.
  • It appears that more than 95 per cent of child sexual abuse cases are never reported to authorities and occur “below the surface.”
  • There is an urgent need to develop and promote programs to help adults identify the signs and symptoms of child sexual abuse.

To conduct this study, Martin and Silverstone looked at two key databases and conducted manual searches of the publications Child Sexual Abuse and Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, including articles from 1990 to 2012, and national incidence studies and prevalence studies.

To learn more about this study, please visit frontiersin.org.

Other recent studies conducted by Silverstone, Martin and others include:

Reading lists

These reading lists are provided for reference purposes only. Little Warriors has not conducted a detailed review of each book listed, and these lists should not be seen as endorsements of the books and authors mentioned.

Adult survivors of child abuse

All of Me
by Kim Noble
Piatkus HB/Tpb (October 6, 2011)

Frock Off: Living Undisguised
by Jo Dibblee
published in 2013 by Frock Off Inc.

I Am Nobody
Bay St. lawyer Greg Gilhooly shares his experiences living in the aftermath of a sexual assault by his mentor, the infamous hockey coach Graham James.

Living for Today: From Incest and Molestation to Fearlessness and Forgiveness
by Erin Merryn
published in 2009 by HCI

My Tears Were for Her
This book contains the actual diarized, dated journals of a young woman who had been sexually abused. It’s real, it’s raw and it has purpose in a world that would love nothing more than to keep the damaging secrets.
Janet M Little

Stolen Innocence: Triumphing Over a Childhood Broken by Abuse: A Memoir
by Erin Merryn
published in 2005 by HCI

Playing With Fire
Theo Fleury and Kristie McLellan Day

Surviving Babylon: A Journey Through Repressed Memories of Sexual Abuse
by Lexa Garson
Alexander Griffin Co. (August 2005)

Strong at the Heart: How It Feels to Heal from Sexual Abuse
by Carolyn Lehman, with Forward by Laura Davis
Douglas & McIntyre / Fsg Kids (September 2005)

The Tricky Part: A boy’s story of sexual trespass, a man’s journey to forgiveness
Martin Moran
Anchor (April 2006)

The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse – Third Edition – Revised and Expanded
Ellen Bass (Preface), Laura Davis (Preface)
Harpercollins Trade Sales Dept (May 1994)

Healing from the Trauma of Childhood Sexual Abuse: The Journey for Women
by Karen A. Duncan
Praeger Publishers (August 2004)

Trauma and Recovery
Judith Lewis Herman
Pandora Press (September 2001)

The Right to Innocence: Healing the Trauma of Childhood Sexual Abuse
Beverly Engel
J P Tarcher; 1 edition (March 1989)

Misinformation Concerning Child Sexual Abuse and Adult Survivors
Charles L. Whitfield (Editor), Joyanna L. Silberg (Editor), Paul Jay Fink (Editor)
Haworth Press; 1 edition (March 2002)

No Secrets No Lies: How Black Families Can Heal from Sexual Abuse
Robin Stone
Harlem Moon; Reprint edition (March 2005)

I Will Survive: The African-American Guide to Healing from Sexual Assault and Abuse
Lori S. Robinson, Foreword by Julia A. Boyd
Seal Press (February 2003)

The Sexual Healing Journey: A Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse (Revised Edition)
Wendy Maltz, Carol Arian (Illustrator)
Harpercollins Trade Sales Dept; 2 edition (February 2001)

Beginning to Heal (Revised Edition): A First Book for Men and Women Who Were Sexually Abused as Children
Ellen Bass, Laura Davis
Harpercollins Trade Sales Dept; REV edition (October 2003)

Paths to Wellness: A Holistic Approach and Guide for Personal Recovery
Robert E. Freeman-Longo
Neari Press (December 2001)

Victims No Longer (Second Edition): The Classic Guide for Men Recovering from Sexual Child Abuse
Mike Lew
Harpercollins Trade Sales Dept; REV edition (April 2004)

Leaping Upon the Mountains: Men Proclaiming Victory over Sexual Child Abuse
Mike Lew
North Atlantic Books; 1 edition (February 2000)

Abused Boys: The Neglected Victims of Sexual Abuse
Mic Hunter
Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (June 1991)

Secret Survivors: Uncovering Incest and Its Aftereffects in Women
E. Sue Blume
John Wiley & Sons Inc (February 1990)

What About Me? A Book for Men Helping Female Partners Deal with Childhood Sexual Abuse
Grant Cameron
Creative Bound Inc. (October 1999)

When Rabbit Howls: A First-Person Account of Multiple Personality, Memory, and Recovery
Laura Davis
HarperCollins Canada / Caedmon (September 1991)

Allies in Healing: When the Person You Love Was Sexually Abused as a Child
Laura Davis
HarperCollins Canada / Caedmon (September 1991)

Shine the Light: Sexual Abuse and Healing in the Jewish Community
Rachel Lev
University of British Columbia Press (January 2002)

Anastasia and the Ghostly Owl (The Choice Was Hers!)
By Anita W Wladichuk
Grey Owl Publishing Company (2005)

Unlocking Buried Secrets
By Victorious Heart
printed at Pandora Press Kitchener (2005)

Raised by Committee
By Carollyne Haynes
Trafford Publishing (December 2007)

Wounds of the Father: A True Story of Child Abuse, Betrayal, and Redemption
by Elizabeth Garrison

Child and adolescent resources

A Very Touching Book…for Little People and for Big People
Jan Hindman (Author), Tom Novak (Illustrator)
Alexandria Assoc; New edition (July 1983)

How Long Does It Hurt?: A Guide to Recovering from Incest and Sexual Abuse for Teenagers, Their Friends, and Their Families
Cynthia Mather, Kristina E. Debye
Jossey-Bass; Revised Edition (November 2004)

I Can’t Talk About It: A Child’s Book About Sexual Abuse
Doris Sanford
Multnomah Books (July 1986)

I Told My Secret: A Book for Kids Who Were Abused
Eliana Gil, Sally Haskell (Illustrator)
Launch Press (November 1986)

It Happens to Boys Too
Russell Bradway, Jane A. Satullo
Rape Crisis Center of the (May 1987)

Kids Helping Kids Break the Silence of Sexual Abuse
Linda L. Foltz
Lighthouse Point Press (2003)

My Body Belongs to Me
Jill Starishevsky, Angela Padrón (Illustrator)
Free Spirit Publishing Inc.

My Very Own Book About Me: A Personal Safety Book
Jo Stowell, Mary Dietzel, Barbara Bryan Gleason
ACT for Kids (January 2000)

No Touching Secrets!
Melissa Pirwani

No Means No
Jayneen Sanders
UpLoad Publishing Pty Ltd (March 2015)

Precious Pinata
Charlene Renaud
An interactive learning book and toy character presented by a parent or adult to a child.

Some Parts are Not for Sharing
Julie Federico

Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept
Jay Sanders
Educate2empower Publishing (June 2017)

The Swimsuit Lesson
Jon Holsten
Holsten Books (2006)

The Color of Secrets: Encouraging Children to Talk About Abuse
Kimberly Steward, Illustrated by Donovan Foote
Doghouse Press (October 2005)

The Kindness of Strangers
Katrina Kittle
HarperCollins Canada / Harper Trade (December 2006)

Spread Your Wings & Fly: Teenager’s Journey of Suspense, Romance, & Terror (in Overcoming Sexual Abuse)
Rebecca Engle Smith
Agreka Books (July 2000)

The Me Nobody Knows: A Guide for Teen Survivors
Barbara Bean, Shari Bennett
Jossey-Bass (September 1997)

When Your Child Has Been Molested: A Parent’s Guide to Healing and Recovery
Kathryn B. Hagans, Joyce Case
John Wiley & Sons Canada, Ltd.; Revised Edition (Dec 5 1997)

Perpetrators

Child Survivors and Perpetrators of Sexual Abuse: Treatment Innovations
Mic Hunter (editor)
Sage Publications, Inc.; 1 edition (March 1995)

Sexual Abuse in Christian Homes and Churches
Carolyn Holderread Heggen, Marie M. Fortune
Herald Press (PA) (July 1993)

Children Who Don’t Speak Out: About Children Being Abused in Child Pornography
Carl Svedin, Kristina Clack
Jessica Kingsley Publishers; 1 edition (May 1997)

From Victim To Survivor: Women Survivors Of Female Perpetrators
Jill Morse, Juliann Whetsell-Mitchell
Taylor & Francis; 1 edition (November 1997)

Legislation and support providers

Child Sexual Abuse in Civil Cases: A Guide to Custody and Tort Actions
Ann M. Haralambie
American Bar Association (June 2003)

Coordinating Child Sexual Abuse Services in Rural Communities
Barry Trute, Elizabeth Adkins, George MacDonald
University of Toronto Press (July 1994)

Treatment and Prevention of Childhood Sexual Abuse: A Child-Generated Model
Sandra A. Burkhardt (Editor), Anthony F. Rotatori (Editor)
Taylor & Francis; 1 edition (1995)

Overcoming Child Abuse: A Window on a World Problem
Michael D. Freeman (Editor)
Dartmouth Pub Co (April 2000)

Childhood Sexual Abuse: A Reference Handbook
Karen L. Kinnear
ABC-Clio Inc (November 1995)

Dialogues with Forgotten Voices: Relational Perspectives on Child Abuse Trauma and the Treatment of Severe Dissociative Disorders
Harvey L. Schwartz
Basic Books (December 2000)

Readings on Groupwork Intervention in Child Sexual Abuse
Andrew Kerslake (Editor)
Whiting & Birch Ltd (October 1995)

Confronting Child Abuse: Research for Effective Program Design
Deborah Daro
Free Press (January 1988)

Children and Adolescents in Need: A Legal Primer for the Helping Professional
Virginia G. Weisz
Sage Publications (November 1994)

Family Violence: A Clinical and Legal Guide
Sandra J. Kaplan, M.D.
American Psychiatric Pub Group; 1 edition (June 1996)