behind the numbers of sexual abuse [#ICSEX]

Written by Dan King

Christ-follower. husband. father. author of the unlikely missionary: from pew-warmer to poverty-fighter. co-author of activist faith: from him and for him. director of family ministry at st. edward's episcopal church. president of fistbump media, llc.

July 30, 2010

We’ve heard the stories about the damage of sexual abuse. And others have shared about our attitudes towards victims of abuse. So it’s easy to imagine that Sex Abuse Week with The Idea Camp blogging series has been a tough one for lots of people involved.

But I want to look at this issue from a different angle… That of the offender (or the would-be offender who hasn’t acted on their impulses yet).



Ministry to victims is extremely important, but will always be a challenge that church faces as long as their are men (and women) out there who are struggling with urges that they feel they can’t talk about.

First, let’s take a look at why I’m thinking about this right now…

Good people don’t just wake up one day and say, “I’m think that I’ll sexually abuse someone today.” We must consider what this behavior escalates from, and often porn addiction is where it starts.

During #ICSEX Porn Week, we saw some pretty staggering numbers about porn usage. It clearly shows a problem of epidemic proportions.

Then this week we’ve seen stories about everything from sexual acts being performed near their ‘target’ all the way up to fathers doing the unthinkable to their daughters. What seems apparent to me is that there’s an escalation in behavior that likely starts with something much more ‘harmless’, but always seeking more…

Now let’s take a look at a few of the numbers related to the prevalence of sexual abuse (Source: darkness to light):

  • 1 in 4 girls is sexually abused before the age of 18.
  • 1 in 6 boys is sexually abused before the age of 18.
  • 1 in 5 children are solicited sexually while on the internet.

These numbers indicate that the problem is pretty widespread. It means that in my son’s class at school, there are likely 3-4 classmates that he interacts with every day that are (or will soon be) victims. What’s even more disturbing is the secrecy that shrouds it…

  • Evidence that a child has been sexually abused is not always obvious, and many children do not report that they have been abused.
  • Over 30% of victims never disclose the experience to ANYONE.
  • Young victims may not recognize their victimization as sexual abuse.
  • Almost 80% initially deny abuse or are tentative in disclosing. Of those who do disclose, approximately 75% disclose accidentally. Additionally, of those who do disclose, more than 20% eventually recant even though the abuse occurred.

And while many are often afraid that a stranger will do something to our children, the evidence shows that it’s usually much closer to home

  • 30-40% of victims are abused by a family member.
  • Another 50% are abused by someone outside of the family whom they know and trust.
  • Approximately 40% are abused by older or larger children whom they know.
  • Therefore, only 10% are abused by strangers.

Considering how widespread (1) the number of victims are, (2) the close proximity of offenders, and (3) the epidemic levels of porn addiction, it’s not a stretch to come to the following conclusion.

We ALL know someone who is secretly struggling with these urges and temptations.

There’s probably someone in your family, at your job, and/or sitting next to you in church that is trying to fighting these temptations. Odds are that some of you reading this right now are dealing with these thoughts and desires.

And I’m sure that every one of these people know exactly how wrong it is. But shame and embarrassment prevents them from ever telling another person about what they’re dealing with.

If we’re going to have any chance at ‘fixing’ this problem of sex abuse, then we not only need to help heal the victims of these acts, but we also need to provide a safe place for people to share the secret things that they are fighting inside.

I know that this may sound strange, but I believe we need to find a way to have the same kind of compassion for potential offenders that we do for victims.

What do you think? How can we (as the church) effectively deal with the root of this problem of sexual abuse?


  1. Deidra Riggs

    One interesting side effect to the information we now have about sexual abuse – and other abuse – is the way it's changed our landscape. Just the other day as I was driving home from work I saw two young children walking down the sidewalk. It was such a strange sight to me, and I couldn't figure out why. Then I realized that I hardly ever see children playing outside alone anymore.

    I remember riding my bicycle to the neighborhood park with a group of friends when I was younger than nine. I don't know if that would happen today.

  2. Jay & Michelle Brock

    I think you've nailed the nail on the head. Sexual abuse always starts from a thought, which reaps action, which reaps habit, which reaps a lifestyle. Unfortunately often it begins when a person is abused…someone else's action. One thing that is needed is restorative justice. Currently men who are behind bars for rape/sexual buse/sex trafficking do not get any phsycological care or treatment. When they get out they have a list of fantasies they want to pursue. We need WAY more prison ministry for stuff like this.

  3. @bibledude

    I remember that when I was a kid I was told to 'go play outside', and that gave me the freedom to roam the neighborhood. It is a different world, but I think that media has played a big part in our perspectives in this too. Regardless, it is a shame to think that kids can't go to the park like that without it being unusual…

  4. @bibledude

    The progressive nature of sexual abuse is certainly cyclical. Victims often have issues themselves, and they may progress through many of the same behaviors (but not always). Regardless, this idea emphasizes the need for safe places for people to be open with their stuggles… and I think it needs to be more than some 'secret program' across town because I believe the number of people who struggle with these thoughts/feelings is probably more widespread than we often realize.

    And I TOTALLY agree that we need to get better treatment for those who are in prison for this kind of stuff (whether child abuse or adult rape).


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

behind the numbers of sexual abuse [#ICSEX]

by Dan King time to read: 3 min