Around 10 percent of adults were sexually abused as children

Around 10 percent of adults were sexually abused as children

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Study: 8.5 percent of young Germans were abused as children

Too often, there is still silence about this: child abuse destroys lives. Most of the surviving victims are traumatized for life. How many people are really affected is difficult to say, since only a few reveal themselves. According to a study, around 8.5 percent of today's young adults have had abuse experiences as children. But it can be assumed that there is an “immense” number of unreported cases.

8.5 percent had to experience abuse
A few months ago, child and adolescent psychiatrists turned to the public and warned that depression in children is underestimated. As the experts emphasized, traumatic experiences such as sexual abuse are among the main risks for mental disorders. Unfortunately, abuse of children is still all too often silent.

Since only a few victims reveal themselves, it is unclear how many people are really affected. According to a study now published, an estimated 8.5 percent of young adults were abused as children.

Abuse at the age of nine and a half
The research project "MiKADO" of the University of Regensburg came to this conclusion. "MiKADO" stands for "Abuse of Children: Aetiology, Dark Field, Victim". The researchers have now published a summary of their results. According to this, those affected experienced the first abuse on average at the age of 9.5 years. At 11.5 percent, women reported child sexual assault much more frequently than men (5.1 percent). However, the dark field is “immense”, as the scientists report.

With and without physical contact
In their work, the researchers adhered to the legal definition of the term “child abuse”, which primarily focuses on the age gap. The project manager, Dr. Dipl. Psych. Janina Neutze explains: "Sexual child abuse was considered a sexual experience under 14 years of age with a person who was at least five years older and at least 14 years old." The psychologist continued: "Sexual experiences before the 16th Birthday, which were rated as unpleasant and stressful. “Verbal violence was excluded from her investigation. According to the information, the scientists differentiate between abuse with physical contact and without physical contact, i.e. exhibitionism and masturbation in front of children or encouraging children to touch themselves on the genitals.

Those affected often remain silent out of shame
In most cases, the children and those affected remain silent, mostly out of shame. Only around every third case was reported to someone else. According to the study, just one percent of cases are known to the investigative authorities or youth welfare offices. A total of approximately 28,000 adults and over 2,000 children and adolescents took part in the studies. In the past three and a half years, in addition to the University of Regensburg, doctors and psychologists in Hamburg, Bonn, Dresden, Ulm and Finland as well as various victim protection associations have participated in the comprehensive project.

Stressful online sexual experiences
Cases related to the Internet were also examined. In addition, six percent of the girls surveyed and two percent of the boys reported having had at least one stressful online sexual experience in the past year. This includes conversations about sexual issues, online sex in front of the camera, receiving pornographic images and sending your own sexual photos. Few of the adolescents broke off online contact when a sexual issue came up or a sexual act was requested (14 percent). Almost a quarter even met online acquaintances. Two percent of them experienced these meetings as stressful and 2.5 percent reported sexual acts at the meetings. Younger and less educated girls were more at risk of stressful online sexual experiences than boys, especially with older men.

More susceptible to mental illness
It was shown that affected children and adolescents, who were identified by the help system, showed clear stress symptoms. According to this, 60 percent met the criteria of a mental disorder, especially disorders of social behavior, ADHD (attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder), post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. Many did not reveal themselves, if at all, after one year at the earliest, and many of those affected did not seek therapeutic help at all. Years ago, US scientists reported that childhood brain damage was detectable and could be the reason that victims are more prone to mental illness.

Better protection against sexual violence
The researchers in the “MiKADO” study also examined how common sexual interest in children is in the population. According to this, 4.4 percent of men reported having sexual fantasies with children and 1.4 percent stated that they had abused a child under the age of twelve. However, the dark field of child abusers is said to be "large". According to the study, less than one in 1,000 men likely meets the diagnostic criteria for pedophilia. The federal government financed the three and a half year project with around 2.5 million euros. According to the researchers, the results could also provide approaches for developing concrete measures to better protect children and adolescents from sexual violence. (ad)

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