As we, at Thorn, fight to put an end to child sex trafficking and child pornography, we are acutely aware that child abuse is a critical aspect of both of these crimes. April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and we want to take time to call attention to the lasting affects of abuse on children and how we can help bring an end to it.
According to Safe Horizons, a victim assistance organization, 1 in 10 children suffer from some form of child maltreatment, and 1 in 16 children suffer from sexual abuse. In 2012, there were 2.9 million reported cases of child abuse, of which 25% involved children under the age of three, and 45% involved children under the age of five.
Not only do children suffer from the physical effects of abuse, but Safe Horizons reported that children as young as three years old have shown signs of mental abuse and suffer from depression and withdrawal symptoms. A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study reported that as abused children get older, they are at higher risk for homelessness (46% of homeless youth were abused), drug use and violent crime.
Moreover, some child abusers were, themselves, abused as children. A study on the relationship between childhood sexual abuse and sexual practices of adults by the U.S. National Institute of Health found that “sexually abused participants had fewer sexual self-care behaviors and less social support than non-abused participants, and almost significantly more sexual risk-taking.”
A heartbreaking example of this type of victim abuse cycle occurred in late 2013, when Senate staffer Jesse Ryan Loskarn took his own life after a very public arrest for child pornography possession. In his suicide note, Jesse sought to shed light on his identification with the images as a victim himself, “I found myself drawn to videos that matched my own childhood abuse. It’s painful and humiliating to admit to myself, let alone the whole world, but I pictured myself as a child in the image or video. The more an image mirrored some element of my memories and took me back, the more I felt a connection.”
We are also aware that a high percentage of child sex trafficking victims experienced prior sexual and physical abuse in their homes. Often the fact that these children are trying to escape one abusive situation makes them vulnerable to a trafficker who will abuse and exploit them further.
These stories are prime examples of why we fight to put an end to child sexual abuse — to stop the sometimes self-perpetuating cycle of child sexual exploitation. For this reason, we are working to call attention to child abuse this month.
How can you help raise awareness? Please educate yourself on child abuse and read about the child trafficking statistics and child pornography facts. If you’re compelled, sign up for our newsletter and follow us on social media. Also, and most importantly, talk to your children about abuse and stay active and engaged with your community to keep an eye out for children who show signs of child abuse.