Who Are The Perpetrators of Childhood Sexual Abuse?

  • Most children are abused by someone they know and trust.
  • An estimated 60% of perpetrators of sexual abuse are known to the child but are not family members, e.g., family friends, babysitters, childcare providers, neighbors.
  • About 30% of perpetrators are family members, e.g., fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins.
  • Just 10% of perpetrators are strangers to the child.
  • In most cases, the perpetrator is male regardless of whether the victim is a boy or girl. Heterosexual and gay men are equally likely to sexually abuse children. A perception that most perpetrators are gay men is a myth and harmful stereotype.
  • Some perpetrators are female — It is estimated that women are the abusers in about 14% of cases reported among boys and 6% of cases reported among girls.
  • Child pornographers and other abusers who are strangers may make contact with children via the Internet.
  • Not all perpetrators are adults – an estimated 23% of reported cases of child sexual abuse are perpetrated by individuals under the age of 18.
  • Other common characteristics of perpetrators include:
    • a history of abuse (either physical or sexual)
    • alcohol or drug abuse
    • little satisfaction with sexual relationships with adults
    • lack of control over their emotions
    • mental illness in some cases