Children are victimized at higher rates than adults, per Darkness to Light, a nonprofit organization focused on educating adults to prevent child sexual abuse. Their youth renders them “uniquely vulnerable,” Heidi Fuchs, a criminal justice clinician at TESSA, a domestic violence support center in Colorado, told The Week, as they may not be able to properly understand and process the abuse they’ve endured. Children are “most in need of effective advocacy,” Fuchs said, because “they lack the information, resources, experience, and ability to advocate for themselves.”
Moreover, unlike adults, children are often completely powerless in their environments. Abusers are frequently the people who also meet a kid’s most basic needs, like food and shelter. Even when abuse takes place outside of the home, it is often perpetrated by a trusted individual, and often in the context of activities that are presented as mandatory — like USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar’s rampant abuse of young female athletes during medical treatments.
When children are trapped in these abusive situations, the consequences can be devastating. In fact, child sexual abuse can cause literal changes to the structure of the brain, researchers discovered in a 2015 study.