The Primary Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse

Known Abusers

We know a vast amount of information about people who sexually abuse children. What will follow is just the beginning, and I will only cover four categories: General information, motivations, preferential abusers, and non-preferential abusers.

Entire books have been written about motivations and the various typologies of sexual abusers, and this information is only designed to give general information about each category, not necessarily specific facts.

General Information

We know that most who sexually harm children are heterosexual male adults, although a very small minority of abusers are gay, lesbian, transgender, or pedophilic. Less than 10% of abuse is perpetrated by women. 35.6% of abusers are juveniles when they commit their offense. Abusers come from all religious backgrounds, but are generally more likely to be religious than not. There is no profile for those who sexually abuse children.

Preferential Abuse

Some abusers are pedophilic, or preferential in that they have an ongoing sexual attraction to children, and this was a factor. While it is true that most abusers are non-preferential, around a third are. 

There are healthy ways to manage a sexual attraction to children without hurting children, and most with this attraction do not abuse children. It would be helpful if those with a sexual attraction to children knew they had options for support and treatment and that they are not destined to abuse children, and it would be helpful to have more research on this population to reduce stigma and fill in our knowledge gaps. 

Some who abuse preferentially remark that they wish they knew that help was available to them before they abused a child, and it is available, but not widely known. Part of the purpose of this site is to shed light on what support options are available before abuse can occur. 

What Motivates Child Sexual Abuse?

Motivations vary greatly. Some are incestuous, and it needs more research compared to other motivations. Some seek power over someone, and the child happened to be available. Some have unmet psychological needs, and the child was an available outlet. A very small percentage of abusers are motivated by the sexual pleasure they get from children, and an even smaller percentage get pleasure from knowingly causing children pain.

Some have antisocial personality disorder and lack the empathy needed to prevent their behavior. Juveniles who sexually abused have motivations that are likewise diverse, though it should be noted that most victims do not go on to sexually abuse others. It is important that people do not wake up and decide to sexually abuse a child: Weeks and months are typically spent grooming the child, breaking down their own barriers that might prevent them from abusing a child, and coming to a situation or planned interaction that will lead to the abuse.

Non-Preferential Abuse

Non-preferential abuse, or abuse that does not include minor attraction as a factor, makes up most abuse, approximately 60-70%. There are a wide range of typologies and motivations, which is partially addressed by the information available here. However, the wide array of information available can be a distracting rabbit hole that is better left for researchers, law enforcement, and other professionals.