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The Link Between Sexual Abuse and Sexual Offending

Sheryl Overby MS LIMHP

It’s really difficult to know if you should be worried about your child after they have been sexually abused in some way. It’s important not to over react, or under react. You should be prepared to have issues with sexuality in some fashion as the child grows into a teen, starts dating and eventually has their own children. But, THERE IS NO PROOF THAT BEING SEXUALLY ABUSED WILL LEAD TO THAT PERSON BEING A SEXUAL ABUSER either as child, teen or adult. Here are some statistics that might help.

  • Some children do react to their sexual abuse by doing sexual things to other children.  The legal term for this is child on child sexual assault.  Therapists call this sexually reactive. These kids can be helped by counseling and have a reduced risk that they will sexually abuse again in the future.
  • Physical abuse of the child or domestic violence in the home is just as traumatic for the child as a history of sexual abuse. All of these factors maybe related (not the only cause) to children who have problematic sexual behavior (PSB).
  • Most kids who have been sexually abused have also had other types of abuse or difficult home life, so it is very difficult to find out exactly what is causing their problems.
  • 13 different studies that involved 1353 children, who were sexually abused, 35% of preschool aged children had sexual behavior problems, and 11% of school age kids had sexual behavior problems.
  • Some studies regarding adult sex offenders indicate that 60 to 70% of them were sexually abused as children.  However, other studies which included polygraph testing of their sexual abuse history found that approximately 20 to 30 % of adult sex offenders were sexually abused as children.
  • Most experts agree that adult sex offenders commonly have difficult childhoods, which included a combination of emotional, physical and sexual abuse.
  • 5 to 10 % of adolescents with sexual behavior problems have true sexual deviancy, so they will have problems with these issues for a very long time.