New York, June 5: Sexual violence against children is more widespread than thought, spanning its morbid shadow across the world, according to a new study based on data released by US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently. The new figures show that at least 25 percent of females and 10 percent of males report experiencing a form of sexual violence as a child, TIME reported. (Read: Ontario Introduces Action Plan to End Sexual Violence)

The results come from Violence Against Children Surveys that were conducted between 2007 and 2013 among men and women ages 18 to 24 in Swaziland, Tanzania, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Haiti and Cambodia. The surveys asked about childhood sexual violence – defined as unwanted touching, unwanted attempted sex, coerced or forced sex – experienced before individuals turned 18.

“Experiencing trauma as a child can contribute to biologic changes, such as altered hormonal responses as well as mental illness, such as depression, or other psychological changes like poor social relations and low self-esteem, all of which elevate risk for developing chronic diseases,” the study said. Girls were more likely to be the victims of unwanted sex than boys.

Among the seven countries surveyed, Swaziland had the highest rates of reported sexual violence against girls, at 37.6 percent. Zimbabwe had the second highest rate for girls at 32.5 percent. Haiti had the most similar rates among both genders.

Cambodia had the lowest rates of reported sexual violence against girls and boys, at 4.4 percent and 5.6 percent respectively. The researchers said that understanding the prevalence of sexual violence can help in the formation of interventions for various countries. The findings were published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.