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Child sexual abuse: NSPCC research briefing

An overview of the current research literature on child sexual abuse.

  • Sexual abuse is largely hidden and can be difficult to uncover.
  • Nearly a quarter of young adults (24.1%) experienced sexual abuse (including contact and non-contact), by an adult or by a peer during childhood (Radford et al, 2011).
  • Disabled children can be particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse.
  • Sexually abused children can suffer a range of psychological and emotional problems especially if the abuse is never uncovered.
  • Sometimes the only chance of uncovering sexual abuse is when a child makes a disclosure and many victims wait years before telling anybody about their abuse.
  • Child sexual exploitation, which has received an increased focus over the last two years, should be seen as part of a wider problem of child sexual abuse.
  • Sexual abuse prevention is best approached by treating the issue of child sexual abuse as a public health problem.