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What is child sexual abuse?
Child sexual abuse is defined as "utilizing a child for sexual gratification by an adult or older child in a position of power, or permitting another person to do so."
Non-touching sexual offenses:
Touching sexual offenses include:
- Indecent exposure/exhibitionism
- Exposing children to pornographic material
- Deliberately exposing a child to the act of sexual intercourse
- Masturbation in front of a child
Sexual exploitation of a child is also an offense and can include:
- Making a child touch an individual's sexual organs
- Any penetration of a child's vagina or anus - no matter how slight by a penis or any object that does not have a valid medical purpose
- engaging or soliciting a child for the purposes of prostitution
- using a child to film, photograph or model pornography
What are the signs of sexual abuse?
The first indicators that a child has been sexually abused may be behavioral changes. Behavioral indicators in young children may include:
- Premature knowledge of sex acts
- Aggressive, overt sexual behavior
- Sleep disorders
- Drawing pictures of people with genitals
- Taking frequent baths
- Starting fires
- Cruelty to animals
- Self-inflicted injuries
- Fear of a particular person or place
- Reporting that abuse has taken place
What are long-term effects of child sexual abuse?
Child sexual abuse may have lifelong effects on children resulting in serious emotional problems including depression, anti-social behavior and identity confusion. Children may lose trust in adults in their lives, suffer feelings of guilt or develop self-abusive behaviors. The memories of abuse may even be suppressed until later in their adult lives.
What can we do to protect children?
- Parents can help to protect their children by teaching them that they can say "no" to a person who touches them in a way that makes them uncomfortable. Parents can make sure that their children know that they can report inappropriate behavior to them or another trusted adult and that they will be believed. Promptly reporting suspected abuse of any child is important.
- Professionals should be aware of the physical and behavioral indicators of abuse. Many professionals have the opportunity to be positive role models for parents and caregivers. In addition, professionals can encourage victims of abuse to seek support groups and therapy.