Whether you are a parent, teacher, or someone else who cares for and loves children, the best defense against sexual abuse is to educate yourself and your children about it.
What Is Child Sexual Abuse?
Child sexual abuse involves an adult engaging in any type of sexual activity with a child or adolescent. It may also involve an adolescent engaging in sexual activity with a younger child.
There are different forms of sexual abuse. Like other forms of abuse, it can be physical, verbal, or emotional. It may be subtle enough that a child does not know what’s happening, but only feels uncomfortable. According to the organization Stop It Now, child sexual abuse includes:
Fondling a child’s genitals, breasts, or anus for sexual pleasure or other unnecessary reason
Playing sexual games or making a child touch someone else’s genitals
Inserting objects or body parts (fingers, tongue, or penis) inside the vulva, vagina, mouth, or anus of a child, for sexual pleasure or other unnecessary reason
Exposing genitals to a child
Showing pornography to a child
Making sexual remarks to a child
Having a child pose, undress, or perform in a sexual fashion (including for photographs)
Peeping into bedrooms and bathrooms
In most cases of sexual abuse, the child knows the offender. The offender is often someone the child trusts or loves, such as a parent, neighbor, or relative.
Children often don’t tell others about sexual abuse because they feel frightened, ashamed, and confused. Their abusers often convince them that it must be kept a secret. Be alert for the following potential warning signs:
Underwear that is torn, stained, or bloody
Difficulty walking or sitting
Redness, pain, bleeding, or bruising in the external genital area, vagina, or anal area
If you show anger or disgust, the child might take it personally. Don’t panic or overreact. This is a difficult experience and the child needs help and support.
Take what the child says seriously.
Listen carefully and compassionately
to the child and answer questions honestly.
Child abuse is
the child’s fault. Reassure the child they are not to blame. Tell the child that you are proud of them for speaking up. Give lots of love, comfort, and reassurance.
Respect the child’s privacy.
Don’t pressure the child to talk about the abuse. The child will talk about it at their own pace. Don’t discuss the abuse in front of people who don’t need to know about it.
Report the abuse
to the local authorities as soon as possible. They can help keep the child safe and provide assistance and resources.
Take the child for a medical exam
in case there might be physical injury, damage, or disease that has resulted from the abuse. An exam may also provide important evidence.
Get help from a variety of sources: the child’s pediatrician, a counselor, a police officer, a child protective service worker, or a teacher.
Do not prevent the child from talking about the abuse.
Do not confront the offender. Keep the child away from the suspected person. Notify the authorities and let them handle the legal process.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at email@example.com. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.