About the Author

Jane F. Gilgun, Ph.D., LICSW, is a professor, School of Social Work, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, USA. She has done research on child sexual abuse for 30 years


Public discussions of clergy abuse in the Roman Catholic Church have brought much needed attention to child sexual abuse. People throughout the world now know that apparently respectable people sexually abuse children. Family members, friends of the families, and other people children know and trust account for all but a small percentage of perpetrators of child sexual abuse. Keeping children safe from child sexual abuse may finally take its rightful place at the center of worldwide efforts. The general public may now be shocked into action.

Until recently, many people refused to believe that seemingly respectable and loved members of families and communities sexually abuse children. With clear proof that outwardly holy holy men sexually abuse children, the myth of dirty old men in overcoats as abusers may now be shattered. Seemingly respectable people sexually abuse children. There is no longer dispute about this.

Child sexual abuse is about children. It is not primarily about punishment of offenders or abhorrence over sexual acts with children. It is not about protecting the images of institutions such as churches, schools, and families. Child sexual abuse is about the hurt that it causes children. Millions of children are hurt by child sexual abuse every year. We must do all we can to keep perpetrators from sexually abusing more children, but we no longer can concentrate on punishment and overlook the children and their families. Children who have been abused rarely get the professional care they require and often are blamed for their own sexual abuse. Prevention efforts are half-hearted and underfunded. To keep children safe, this must change.

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