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Gaceta Sanitaria

Print version ISSN 0213-9111


CORTES ARBOLEDA, Mª Rosario; CANTON DUARTE, José  and  CANTON-CORTES, David. Characteristics of sexual abuse of minors and its consequences on victims' mental health. Gac Sanit [online]. 2011, vol.25, n.2, pp.157-165. ISSN 0213-9111.

Objective: To analyze the prevalence, nature and consequences of sexual abuse during childhood or adolescence. Methods: A total of 2,159 college students from the University of Granada anonymously completed a questionnaire on sexual abuse. A group of sexual abuse survivors was established and a comparison group without a history of abuse was selected. In a second session, the socio-affective adjustment of both groups was assessed. Results Sexual abuse before the age of 18 was reported by 269 (12.5%) students. In 62.8%, the abuse consisted of the perpetrator touching the victim and/or the victim touching the perpetrator. The average age at which the sexual abuse started was 8.8 years old. The vast majority of perpetrators were males and 44% were under-age minors. The perpetrators usually committed the sexual abuse in the victim's home or in their own homes, taking advantage of visits and/or close relationships. Almost half the perpetrators made use of deception or games. Female college students with a history of sexual abuse had lower self-esteem, were less assertive, had a more negative attitude toward life, and higher depression and anxiety scores than women in the comparison group. Male survivors, however, differed from non-survivors only in having higher anxiety levels. Conclusions: Our study demonstrates the severity of the problem of sexual abuse of minors and its consequences, the circumstances in which this abuse occurs, and the profiles of perpetrators and victims. These results are relevant for the planning of abuse detection and prevention programs.

Keywords : Child abuse; sexual; Prevalence; Mental health.

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