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Know the signs: Sexual Abuse


Sexual abuse includes acts by any adult which include touching a child’s genitals, penetration by objects, oral sex, incest, sexual assault, indecent exposure, and exploitation through prostitution or the production of pornographic materials. (Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2015)

Sexual abuse is defined by the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act as “the employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of any child to engage in, or assist any other person to engage in, any sexually explicit conduct or simulation of such conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct; or the rape, and in cases of caretaker or intra-familial relationships, statutory rape, molestation, prostitution, or other form of sexual exploitation of children, or incest with children.” All sexual activity between an adult and a child is sexual abuse, even if it doesn’t involve penetration, force, pain, or touching.

Sexual touching between children can also be sexual abuse if there is a significant age difference between the children or the children are very different developmentally or in size.

Examples of touching sexual acts

  • Touching a child’s genitals, breasts, or buttocks
  • Making a child touch another person’s sexual organs
  • Any penetration of a child’s vagina, anus, or mouth by a penis or any other object for no valid medical reason

Examples of non-touching sexual acts

  • Indecent exposure or being naked in public
  • Showing children pornographic material
  • Masturbating or engaging in other sexual behavior in the presence of a child
  • Making sexual comments to a child
  • Harassing, encouraging, pressuring, or bargaining with a child to perform sexually
  • Achieving sexual arousal by watching a child who is undressing or unclothed
In this video a medical doctor and child advocacy center medical director who specializes in child abuse investigations emphasizes what is important to do and not to do when a considering making a report.
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