The Truth About Sex Abuse

Sexual abuse occurs when a person is sexually exploited by an older or more powerful person for the satisfaction of the abuser's needs. The misused power can be either actual physical strength or perceived relational power. Sexual abuse can be verbal, visual, or physical activity. It can include physical contact (clothed or unclothed); actual penetration; oral/anal sex; fondling; genital exposure; sexually explicit speech; inappropriate sexual behavior toward a child/teen; showing pornography to a child/teen. It can be engaged in without consent or understanding of what "consent" is. Penetration does not have to occur for a person to be sexually abused.

Who is sexually abused?

  • One out of three to four girls before age 18.
  • One out of five to six boys before age 18.
  • Two-thirds of all substance abusers are sexual abuse survivors.

Adult survivors of childhood sex abuse

By the time a survivor of childhood abuse reaches adulthood, a great deal of damage may have occurred. This damage often appears to be unrelated to the abuse. Problems that adult survivors experience often motivate them to seek spiritual direction and perhaps pastoral or professional help.

The problems or damage from abuse are called the "secondary symptoms" of abuse. Rarely do survivors seek help for the actual abuse. It is more common for them to seek help because of these secondary symptoms. At the heart of the secondary symptoms, however, are the unresolved issues that result from being sexually abused. These secondary symptoms can threaten the stability of marriages, the ability to appropriately parent, and the vulnerability required to establish a trust relationship with God.

Many adult survivors are well into their late 20s before they realize they have problems. Often, by the time they seek help, their problems are complex, their relationships are troubled and they are in chaos. Their greatest need is to be understood, believed, accepted and respected.

Background Information

Questions and Answers


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