sad little girlWhat is child sexual abuse?

A central characteristic of child sexual abuse is the dominant position of an adult (or between two minors) that allows him or her to force or coerce a child into sexual activity. This includes acts such as:

  • Fondling
  • Sexual acts with a child:
    penetration, intercourse, incest, oral sex, sodomy
  • Child pornography:
    using a child in the production of pornography, often film or magazine
  • Exposing a child to pornography:
    movies, magazines, internet
  • Violations of bodily privacy:
    forcing a child to undress, spying on a child in the bathroom
  • Luring a child for sexual liaisons:
    including through the internet for sexual purposes
  • Exposing a child to adult sexuality:
    showing sex organs to a child, forcing a child to watch adult sex acts, group sex
  • Child prostitution/sexual exploitation:
    using a child to perform sex acts with others
  • Communicating in a sexual manner:
    either through phone, letter, or internet


Signs and Symptoms of Child Sexual Abuse

While there is no one true indicator that can tell you if your child has been sexually abused, there are often warning signs that your child may exhibit. In some cases, there may be no outward signs of abuse beyond what a child will hopefully tell you.

  • Withdrawal
  • Depression
  • Nightmares, trouble sleeping
  • Sudden mood swings/unexplained anger or rebellion
  • Fear of certain people or places
  • Frequent stomach illness or headaches with no identifiable reason
  • Redness, rashes, bleeding, or swelling in the genital areas
  • Pain at the genitals, anus, or mouth
  • Frequent urinary tract infections
  • Sexualized behaviors with toys, pets, or other children
  • New words for private body parts
  • Behaviors of a younger child: bedwetting or thumb sucking
  • Loss of appetite

Learn more about the signs of abuse on the One with Courage website