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Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse is when a child is tricked or forced to take part in sexual activities or the taking of sexual photos. It can happen in person or online, and there are two types: contact and non-contact sexual abuse.

Contact abuse involves physical sexual contact with a child’s body, including:

  • Sexual touching of any part of a child’s body (whether they are clothed or not)
  • Kissing
  • Oral sex
  • Using a body part or object to penetrate a child
  • Forcing a child to take part in sexual activities
  • Making a child undress or touch someone else

Non-contact abuse is sexual activity that doesn’t involve physical sexual contact, and can happen in person or online. Non-contact abuse includes:

  • Exposing or flashing
  • Showing pornography
  • Exposing a chid to sexual acts
  • Making a child masturbate
  • Making, viewing, or distributing child abuse images or videos
  • Tricking or forcing a child to make, view, or share child abuse images or videos
  • Tricking or forcing a child to take part in sexual activities or conversations
  • Sexual exploitation

Signs of Sexual Abuse

Knowing the signs of sexual abuse can help to give a voice to children. Any child is at risk, though it is important to remember that both boys and girls can be sexually abused. Children more vulnerable to sexual abuse are children with disabilities (since the child might not be able to understand what is happening to them is abuse, or might not be able to tell someone), and children who are experiencing neglect or other forms of abuse.

Most children who have been sexually abused were abused by somebody they know, such as a family member, a friend or family friend, a teacher or sports coach. Children can also be sexually abused online by somebody they know. The abuse could be a one-off sexually abusive act, or the perpetrator could build a relationship with the child.

Signs that a child is being sexually abused may include:

  • Difficulty walking or sitting
  • Pain, itching, bleeding, bruising, or unusual discharge to the genital area or anus
  • Urinary infections or sexually transmitted infections
  • Persistent sore throats
  • Pregnancy
  • Refusing to change for PE or participate in physical activities
  • Avoids or is afraid of being left alone with people or a specific person
  • Exhibits an inappropriate knowledge of sex for their age
  • Uses inappropriate sexual language
  • Exhibits sexualised behaviour in their play or with other children
  • Bed-wetting
  • Changes in eating habits or developing eating disorders
  • Lack of peer relationships
  • Sleep disturbances or nightmares
  • Refusing to go to school
  • Running away from home
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Anxiety
  • Self-harm or attempts at suicide

If a child is being sexually abused online, they may exhibit the following behaviour:

  • Spending more time than usual online, texting, or gaming
  • Seeming distant, upset, or angry after using the internet or texting
  • Being secretive about what they are doing online or who they are talking to
  • Having lots of new phone numbers, texts, or messages

Effects of Sexual Abuse

Children who are sexually abused can experience short- and long-term effects, including:

  • Feelings of shame and guilt
  • Difficulty coping with stress
  • Post-traumatic stress
  • Mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Drug and alcohol problems
  • Relationship problems with family, friends and in romantic relationships
  • Pregnancy
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal thoughts and attempts at suicide

If you are concerned about a child, please contact the Integrated Front Door (IFD) by clicking on the link below –

IFD Portal