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Sexual Abuse

Sexual violence is any act (verbal and/or physical) which breaks a person's trust and/or safety and is sexual in nature. Victims/survivors of sexual assaults are forced, coerced, and/or manipulated to participate in the unwanted sexual activity. Adolescent women are at a higher risk for sexual violence than any other age group. Part of the reason for this is the large number of date/acquaintance rapes which occur at this age. This is coupled with the fact that many adolescents are victims of sexual abuse and incest as well. Due to past or ongoing sexual abuse, teens with these experiences are more likely than their non-abused peers to participate in "delinquent" teenage behaviors including those which result in school problems, conflict with authority, early sexual behavior, and eating problems. These behaviors may help the teen escape from jeopardy and/or serve as a cry for help.

Date/acquaintance rape is sexual assault perpetrated by someone known to the victim such as: a friend, an employer, a date, or someone the victim/survivor recently met. It is almost entirely perpetrated by males against females. It is NEVER the victim/survivor's fault no matter what she wore, where she was, whether or not she fought back, or whether or not she was drinking. The perpetrators are 100% responsible for their actions. Rape, including date/acquaintance rape, is violence where sex is used as the weapon. Date/acquaintance rapists often believe myths such as: women owe men sex if they spend money on her; some women play hard to get and say "no" when they mean "yes;" and women enjoy being pursued by an aggressive male.

Individuals who have been assaulted and/or abused by someone they know may feel guilty or responsible for the abuse, feel betrayed, question their judgment and have difficulty trusting people. Recovery from an assault can be assisted by contacting an advocate who understands the needs of sexual assault victims. Many communities have rape crisis centers with 24-hour counseling and advocacy services. Adolescents who are being sexually abused can contact the 24-hour National Child Abuse Hotline for assistance and referral: 1-800-422-4453.

Here are the Facts:


A woman has a 4 times greater chance of being raped by someone she knows than by a stranger (I Never Called it Rape: The Ms. Report on Recognizing, Fighting, and Surviving Date and Acquaintance Rape. Robin Warshaw. New York, Harper and Row Publishers, 1988).

Victimization rates for sexual assault are 12.9 per 1,000 women age 16-24 and 9.0 per 1,000 for all other age groups combined (Criminal Victimization in the United States, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1993).

The risk of rape is four times higher for women aged 16 to 24, the prime dating age (Warshaw, 1988).
Young women between the ages of 14 and 17 represent an estimated 38% of those victimized by date rape (Warshaw, 1988).

Studies indicate that dating violence affects at least 1 in 10 teen couples. It is one of the major sources of violence in teen life (Dating Violence: Young Women in Danger, Barrie Levy, Seattle, Washington: Seal Press, 1991).

75% of men and 55% of women involved in acquaintance rapes reported using alcohol or other drugs prior to the incident (Warshaw, 1988).

In a study of 769 male students, grades 7-12 in rural Wisconsin, 52% reported engaging in sexually aggressive behavior. 24% engaged in the unwanted sexual touch of another teen; 15% engaged in sexual coercion (such as lying) to initiate sexual activity; 14% engaged in assaultive behavior (use of physical force, threats of physical force, or using alcohol to gain sexual activity) (Adolescent Male Sexual Aggression: Incidents and Correlates, Donell Marie Kerns, Ph.D., thesis, UW-Madison, 1994).
Over 50% of high school boys and 42% of high school girls believe that there are times when it is "acceptable for a male to hold a female down and physically force her to engage in intercourse." (Warshaw, 1988).

A 1992 Washington State study of 535 teen mothers revealed that the first pregnancies of 62% of the participants were preceded by experiences of molestation, rape, or attempted rape. The mean age of their offenders was 27.4 years. ("Sexual Abuse as a Factor in Adolescent Pregnancy & Child Maltreatment," Family Planning Perspectives, 24:4, Jan./Feb., 1992).

7% of 18-22 year olds have experienced at least one episode of nonvoluntary sexual intercourse. Women were more likely than men to report having had such an experience, with just under half of all nonvoluntary experiences among women occurring before the age of 14 ("Nonvoluntary Sexual Activity Among Adolescents," Kristin Anderson Moore, et al., Family Planning Perspectives, 16:21, May/June, 1989).

The National Women's Survey of 714 adult women found that 32.2% had experienced forcible rape between the ages of 11-17. (Rape In America: A Report to the Nation on Rape, National Victim Center & Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center, 1992).

Violent child victimizers were substantially more likely than those with adult victims to have been physically or sexually abused as children. (Child Victimizers: Violent Offenders and Their Victims, Bureau of Justice Statistics Executive Summary, March, 1996).

78% of state prison inmates convicted of sexual assault had abused a child under 18. 40% of state prison inmates convicted of rape had raped a child under 18. (Bureau of Justice Statistics, March, 1996).

43% of rapes and sexual assaults of children under 18 were committed in the victim's home in 1991. (Bureau of Justice Statistics, March, 1996).

If your child is assaulted, help them to connect with support services that will help them.

24-hour Confidential Hotline 508-228-2111
Cape Cod Center for Women (toll-free) 800-745-0003,508-664-7233
Children's Cove (toll-free) 888-863-1900, 508-375-0410
Department of Social Services (DSS) for Cape Cod & the Islands (toll-free) 800-352-0711,508-760-0200
Independence House (toll-free) 800-439-6507, 508-771-6507
Martha's Vineyard Community Services, Women’s Support Services 508-693-7900, 508-693-SAFE
Massachusetts Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children (MSPCC) (toll-free) 800-882-1250, 508-775-0275
Parents Helping Parents (toll-free) 800-882-1250, 617-267-8077
Youth Task Force of Martha's Vineyard