What is child sexual abuse?Child sexual abuse or sexual molestation can include any kind of sexual act directed toward a child by an adult or by an older or more powerful child or any sexual act which involves a threat or violence.
Sexual acts may include the following:
- Touching of a child's genital by an adult;
- An adult telling the child to touch the adult's or another's genitals;
- Exposure of the genitals, including photographing the child's genitals or the child in a sexual position;
- An adult masturbating in front of a child;
- Rubbing (masturbating) against a child;
- Oral sex performed on a child or telling a child to perform oral sex;
- Any type of penetration of a child's vagina or anus, however slight, by a penis, finger, tongue or other object;
- Exposing a child to pornography or using a child in pornography;
- Talking, commenting and or teasing a child in sexual ways.
Signs and Symptoms of Child Sexual Abuse
- Physical signs of sexual abuse are not common, although redness, rashes or swelling in the genital area, urinary tract infections or other such symptoms should be carefully investigated. Also, physical problems associated with anxiety, such as chronic stomach pain or headaches, may occur.
- Emotional or behavioral signals are more common. These can run from “too perfect” behavior, to withdrawal and depression, to unexplained anger and rebellion.
- Sexual behavior and language that are not age-appropriate can be a red flag.
- Be aware that in some children there are no signs whatsoever.
A child advocacy center can guide you. To find a center near you, contact National Children’s Alliance at nca-online.org/members.html or call 1-800-239-9950. The opportunity to convict a child molester may depend on forensic evidence from an examination.
Resources on Child Sexual AbuseAdult Responsibility for Child Sexual Abuse
Why adults are responsible for child sexual abuse and what adults can do to prevent child sexual abuse.
Child Sexual Abuse Statistics
Learn about the prevalence of child sexual abuse in society and the consequences of abuse. Child sexual abuse touches every life when it leads to losses of trust, decreases in self esteem, and development of shame, guilt and depression. Child sexual abuse can lead to eating disorders, substance abuse, suicide, promiscuity/prostitution, and other psychobehavioral issues.
Questions and Answers about Child Sexual Abuse
Answers to frequently asked questions about child sexual abuse.
Child Sexual Abuse Reading List
Reading lists on various topics.
Child Sexual Abuse Articles
Featured articles on child sexual abuse and legislation.
Stories and Journeys through Child Sexual Abuse
Journeys that survivors took as a result of the sexual abuse that they had to endure as children.
From Darkness to Light