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Sexual Abuse

What is Sexual Abuse?

Child Sexual Abuse involves persuading or forcing a child to take part in sexual activities, or encouraging a child to behave in sexually inappropriate ways.

Acts of child sexual abuse can be committed by adults regardless of gender or sexuality, as well as teenagers and other children. The sexual abuse of children is more than just physical sexual contact. 

Sexual abuse includes:

  • Sexual touching of any part of the body, clothed or unclothed
  • All penetrative sex, including penetration of the mouth with an object or part of the body
  • Encouraging a child to engage in sexual activity including sexual acts with someone else and making a child strip or masturbate
  • Intentionally engaging in sexual activity in front of a child
  • Not taking proper measures to prevent a child being exposed to sexual activity by others
  • Meeting a child following sexual “grooming” with the intention of abusing them
  • Taking, making, permitting to take, distributing, showing or advertising indecent images of children
  • Paying for the sexual services of a child or encouraging them into prostitution or pornography
  • Showing a child images of sexual activity including photographs, videos or via webcams

Signs and Symptoms

Children who have been/are being sexually abused may show signs of abuse or they may try to tell you about the abuse through hints or clues. They may also describe behaviour by an adult that suggests they are being groomed for future abuse. Other signs include:

  • Suddenly starting to behave differently - aggressive behaviour, sleep problems, bed-wetting or soiling, risk-taking behaviour during adolescence, negative thoughts, not looking after themselves, problems at school
  • Avoiding particular adults - avoiding being alone with a particular family member, being fearful of an adult or being reluctant to socialise with them
  • Sexually inappropriate behaviour - becoming sexually active at a young age sometimes with multiple partners, use of sexual language or information that you would not expect them to know
  • Physical symptoms - anal or vaginal soreness, an unusual discharge, pregnancy