Sexual abuse, also referred to as molestation, is forcing undesired sexual behavior by one person upon another. When that force is immediate, of short duration, or infrequent, it is called sexual assault. The offender is referred to as a sexual abuser or (often pejoratively) molester. The term also covers any behavior by any adult towards a child to stimulate either the adult or child sexually. When the victim is younger than the age of consent, it is referred to as child sexual abuse.
Spousal sexual abuse is a form of domestic violence. When the abuse involves forced sex, it may constitute rape upon the other spouse, depending on the jurisdiction, and may also constitute an assault.
Sexual misconduct can occur where one person uses a position of authority to compel another person to engage in an otherwise unwanted sexual activity. For example, sexual harassment in the workplace might involve an employee being coerced into a sexual situation out of fear of being dismissed. Sexual harassment in education might involve a student submitting to the sexual advances of a person in authority in fear of being punished, for example by being given a failing grade.
Child sexual abuse is a form of child abuse in which a child is abused for the sexual gratification of an adult or older adolescent. It includes direct sexual contact, the adult or otherwise older person engaging indecent exposure (of the genitals, female nipples, etc.) to a child with intent to gratify their own sexual desires or to intimidate or groom the child, asking or pressuring a child to engage in sexual activities, displaying pornography to a child, or using a child to produce child pornography.
Sexual abuse by a family member is a form of incest, and results in more serious and long-term psychological trauma, especially in the case of parental incest.
Approximately 15% to 25% of women and 5% to 15% of men were sexually abused when they were children. Most sexual abuse offenders are acquainted with their victims; approximately 30% are relatives of the child, most often fathers, uncles or cousins; around 60% are other acquaintances such as friends of the family, babysitters, or neighbors; strangers are the offenders in approximately 10% of child sexual abuse cases. Most child sexual abuse is committed by men; women commit approximately 14% of offenses reported against boys and 6% of offenses reported against girls. Most offenders who abuse pre-pubescent children are pedophiles; however, a small percentage do not meet the diagnostic criteria for pedophilia.
§Sexual abuse of people with developmental disabilities
People with developmental disabilities are often victims of sexual abuse. According to research, people with disabilities are at a greater risk for victimization of sexual assault or sexual abuse because of lack of understanding (Sobsey & Varnhagen, 1989). The rate of sexual abuse happening to people with disabilities is shocking, yet most of these cases will go unnoticed.
Sexual abuse is a big issue in some minority communities. In 2007, a number of Hispanic victims were included in the settlement of a massive sexual abuse case involving the Los Angeles archdiocese of the Catholic Church. To address the issue of sexual abuse in the African-American community, the prestigious Leeway Foundation sponsored a grant to develop www.blacksurvivors.org, a national online support group and resource center for African-American sexual abuse survivors. The non-profit group was founded in 2008 by Sylvia Coleman, an African-American sexual abuse survivor and national sexual abuse prevention expert.
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