Sexual abuse has unfortunately become a common experience today for girls and women in the United States. Understanding the risk factors that make girls and young women vulnerable to sexual abuse is the first step in combating it. Any girl or woman can become a victim of sexual abuse, but the following risk factors may tend to increase the threat.
For adolescent girls and young women, sexual activity has been associated with an increased likelihood of abuse. Sexually active girls are more likely to face unwanted sexual experiences or victimization than those girls who are not sexually active. Early onset of sexual activity, frequent sexual experiences and a greater number of dating partners all increase the risk of abuse for young girls and women, simply because there is more opportunity for it to happen.
Drug and alcohol abuse tend to go along with sexual abuse as well. This is partly because intoxication increases a girl or women’s vulnerability, but also may be related to a problem with self-regard. Perpetrators often find opportunities to victimize girls in situations where alcohol and drugs are being used because they impair a girl’s ability to fight off unwelcome sexual advances.
Women and girls who grow up in one-parent households report higher levels of sexual assault and abuse than those who grow up in two-parent households. The reasons for this correlation are largely unknown. A correlation also exists between abuse and socioeconomic groups. Abuse has been found to happen more often in girls or women whose families live below the poverty line. Young women from this demographic are also less likely to report incidents of abuse or to seek counseling afterward.
Some studies suggest that girls and women suffering from depression are more likely to be victimized. Other research links a variety of mental and emotional health problems, including addiction and trauma, with an increased risk of sexual or physical assault. These factors of victimization are exacerbated if the young woman is not undergoing treatment for her emotional or mental health problems.
What This Means to Your Family
It’s important to remember that assault or abuse is never the fault of the victim, because anyone can be vulnerable to sexual victimization. Understanding the factors described above can help empower you and your daughter or another young woman in your care. Havenwood Academy specializes in providing residential treatment programs designed to address the challenges inherent in a girl’s teen years. Contact them today to discuss their traditional and alternative therapy programs, and to learn how best to minimize your child’s risk of sexual abuse.