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Girl in hijab faces away from camera towards a tall bouquet of flowers in a vase, against a backdrop of a yellow wall in Afghanistan

Ending child sexual abuse and violence

Campaigning for a world free from child sexual abuse and exploitation.

Every year, more than one billion children – or half of the world’s children – experience some form of violence.

Children are at a higher risk of experiencing sexual exploitation, abuse and violence. And this challenge is only getting bigger due to the combination of Covid, conflict and climate change. 

Globally, at least 120 million girls, under the age of 20, have been forced to engage in sex - that’s around one in 10 girls. Boys are also victims of sexual violence, but this is as an under-discussed and under-documented issue which reinforces the belief that child sexual abuse exclusively affects girls.

As a children’s charity working internationally, World Vision partners with communities and local leaders to protect children from instances of sexual violence. We ensure families are empowered to protect children from sexual abuse and have an increased awareness of the impacts of sexual exploitation.

The impacts of child sexual abuse

Child sexual violence is defined as any form of sexual abuse towards a child or young person under the age of 18. A child could be forced to perform sexual acts, even if they’re not aware of what’s happening. Equally as harmful, a child might be emotionally abused through online grooming tactics to sexually exploit children and instil fear and isolation.

Child sexual exploitation can happen to any child or young person under the age of 18, including 16 and 17-year-olds who can legally consent to having sex. Child victims of sexual abuse and exploitation can face devastating impacts, including immediate physical injuries and long-lasting psychological harm.

These impacts may result in the survivor being burdened with lifelong costs of healthcare and a loss in quality of life, alongside the possibility of early pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, and lower levels of education.

How we're supporting children impacted by sexual violence

Will you join us to protect boys and girls? 

We played a key role in the UK Government’s Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Conference 2023, hosting survivors from Uganda and three advocates from DRC who were able to tell their story. We demonstrated the impact of our programmes with faith leaders to address the stigma faced by sexual violence survivors and chaired the launch of a global platform for action for children born of conflict-related sexual violence.

Support World Vision to tackle the root causes of child sexual abuse.

Child sexual abuse statistics

It is difficult to obtain reliable information about children’s experience of forced sex and sexual abuse. Children are often too afraid of the consequences of speaking up about this issue because their perpetrator may be a close family member, they might be ashamed or even lacking the support of having someone to turn to in times of crisis.

Conflict increases rates of child sexual exploitation

Although sexual violence can happen to anyone, anywhere, the risk increases in emergency contexts. During armed conflict, children are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence.

The term conflict-related sexual violence (CSVR) refers to any form of sexual violence, such as rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, and enforced female genital mutilation (FGM), perpetrated against any person in relation to conflict.

In conflict affected areas, girls are primarily and increasingly targeted by CSVR as a tactic of war to break up families, force displacement and take control of territories. However, men and boys have also been victims especially in contexts of detention.

Preventing sexual violence against children in conflict

The United Nations are working to make the 17 Strategic Development Goals (SDGs) a reality by 2030. As part of goal 16, promote peace, justice and effective institutions, we must work towards reducing all forms of violence against children.

They recognise that protecting children from violence is a fundamental children’s right. That’s because every child deserves to live free from fear, especially in situations of conflict. World Vision is working with families and communities to condemn sexual violence and ensure children are protected from harm.

Personal stories of children impacted by violence

Learn about our work to end child sexual abuse

Together we can end child sexual abuse


  • The child sexual exploitation definition is any form of child sexual abuse, including both contact and non-contact abuse. This can involve coercing, manipulating or deceiving a child to take part in sexual activities and sexual acts. In instances where non-contact abuse occurs, it can involve grooming children online or forcing them to produce or look at sexual images.

    Child sexual exploitation can happen to any child or young person under the age of 18, including 16 and 17-year-olds who can legally consent to having sex.

  • Child sexual abuse affects more than just a child’s physical health but also their mental health and general wellbeing. The impact of child sexual abuse can have long-term effects on a child's quality of life, their ability to access education, find employment in later life and more. This is why tackling all forms of child sexual abuse is essential.

  • Although sexual violence primarily affects women and girls, boys can also be victims of sexual violence – particularly if they live in conflict-affected or fragile areas. Historically, governments have focussed on addressing sexual violence by primarily tackling abuse and exploitation against women and girls. This is why child sexual abuse charities cannot ignore boys in their work

    At World Vision, we want governments to focus on addressing sexual violence against all children in their policies. 

  • There are many things you can do to help end sexual violence against children. You could write to your local MP to ask them to amplify this issue in parliament. You could also talk to your school, church, workplace about the issues mentioned on this page. You could also get involved with World Vision’s campaigns to end child sexual abuse. Click here to keep updated.

  • Sexual violence does not only affect children’s physical health but also their mental health and general wellbeing. The long-term impacts can have a knock-on effect on a child’s quality of life and their ability to get an education and find employment later in life.