Last weekend I sat on a rock at the top of a hill, looking down at a cluster of suburban homes. Everything looked so normal. But I couldn't help thinking, There is sexual abuse going on in some of those homes, kids who are terrified and have no one to help them.
At least one in four girls is sexually abused before she reaches age 18, and one in 6 boys. These are figures from the U S Centers for Disease Control. They are probably low estimates because people had to be willing to answer "Yes" on a questionnaire at the doctor's office asking whether an adult had touched or fondled them or attempted intercourse before they were 18. Other studies have suggested 30-40% of girls and 20-25% of boys experience some kind of sexual abuse. Of course, most of these incidents are never reported to any authority, much less the police. Therefore, the numbers for successfully prosecuted cases are a tiny fraction.
Abuse includes so-called fondling, inappropriate touching, and asking children to touch the adult's private parts, as well as oral, vaginal, or anal intercourse or attempted intercourse.
Any and all of this is wrong and very damaging to the child and her healthy growth. But perhaps the worst part of it is the damage to trust, the sense of betrayal, confusion and fear that come with the abuse, especially when it is done by someone the child trusted. Abuse is so traumatic that many children repress the memories and carry the sense of wrongness inside them.