Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (UC): One in five people say they have suffered sexual abuse as a minor

18% of the people surveyed indicated that they had been the victim of sexual abuse as a minor, where the perpetrator was 12 years old or older. This is one of the data revealed by the First National Survey of Sexual Abuse and Adversities in Childhood —which was prepared by the CUIDA UC center together with Fundación para la Confianza.

Following the data provided by the study, within that 18%, 23% responded that this abuse had been perpetrated by a family acquaintance, followed by a neighbor (8%), the partner/boyfriend/husband (2%) , by a friend (1%), a discipline instructor (1%), a caregiver (1%) and a priest, deacon or religious (1%).

“It is a highly invisible phenomenon, invisible in the eyes of the authorities, the State, the neighbors, the community in general. So, it is very difficult to investigate and treat, above all, because it occurs «in environments where children are developing their daily lives,” said UC academic Eduardo Valenzuela.


Eduardo Valenzuela, UC academic, during his speech.
The study also finds that nearly half (48%) of those surveyed said that 10 or more years had passed between the time the abuse occurred and the time they were able to tell someone. 20% had to wait 2 to 10 years and only a third (31%) were able to do it a year or less.

The results of this survey are an important contribution to public policy decision-making for children in Chile, as well as for those who have suffered these painful experiences.

importance of education
En la ocasión, el rector Ignacio Sánchez expresó: “En la comprensión del importante tema del poder y del abuso, hay que reconocer que en la base esta siempre la asimetría de una relación, lo que puede generar y gatillar el abuso. Para prevenirlo hay que fomentar una educación adecuada con conciencia de sí, capaz de asimilar diferencias con respecto al otro, y de reforzar la autoestima de cada uno. En suma, se necesita una educación para formar personas libres. Así, el buen ejercicio del poder, debe acompañarse de la educación formación y prevención del abuso con la adecuada creación de conciencia de este riesgo”.

“Freedom will always be a key, it is important that the student, along with feeling welcomed, can develop their own personality and self-esteem. That is why training from the first years of life is so crucial and it is what has motivated us to present this issue in a profound and rigorous manner. We must be very clear that sexual abuse against minors affects the most innocent, vulnerable and loved group in society: children and young people . These crimes are outrageous, abominable and are rejected blunt”, declared the rector.



The rector Ignacio Sánchez stressed the need to be very clear that sexual abuse against minors affects the most innocent, vulnerable and loved group in society: children and young people.

For his part, James Hamilton, founding vice president of Fundación para la Confianza, referred to the consequences of abuse for health: “The abused child’s amygdala is blocked and remains in permanent alarm and that produces atrophies in the brain. The volume of their cerebral cortex will be less than that of children who have not been exposed to violence and abuse in their childhood. For this and many other reasons, we can say that early adversity events reduce life expectancy even up to 20 years ” .

“This little effective care for children means a progressive deterioration of our society. Neglecting childhood, the world generates its worst enemies, I believe that the future of a country of a society and of the world has to do with prioritizing child care”, stressed Hamilton.



During the presentation, those who led the study formed a panel to analyze and discuss in more detail.
Characteristics and impact of abuse
Regarding the characteristics and frequency of the abuse, 44% indicated that it consisted of an event that occurred only once with a single person; 28% responded that it was several times with a single person and 26% several times with several people.

On the other hand, the impacts of this abuse can be early and also late: among the mental health disorders diagnosed by health professionals due to child sexual abuse are depression (38%), post-traumatic stress (11%), anxiety generalized (16%), suicidal ideation (13%), non-suicidal self-harm (8%) and learning disorders (8%). Contrasting percentages when compared, for example, with people who have not suffered child sexual abuse and have reported depression (17%) or suicidal ideation (3%).

Among the mental health disorders diagnosed by health professionals due to child sexual abuse are depression (38%), post-traumatic stress (11%), generalized anxiety (16%), suicidal ideation (13%), self-harm non-suicidal (8%) and learning disorders (8%).

“Every adverse experience in childhood is somehow associated with mental health problems, but when there is sexual abuse it is even more serious,” as stated by the director of the UC Early Childhood Program, María Pía Santelices.

In 2019, UC and Fundación para la Confianza created the CUIDA Center to prevent abuse and early adversity with the aim of generating scientific evidence for the understanding and development of prevention and intervention tools in the areas of abuse and early adverse events, seeking to impact public policies and society in general around these issues.

The results of this survey are an important contribution to public policy decision-making for children in Chile, as well as for those who have suffered these painful experiences.

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