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Sexual Abuse

What is sexual abuse?

Child sexual abuse involves persuading or forcing a child to take part in sexual activities, or encouraging a child to behave in sexually inappropriate ways. Acts of child sexual abuse can be committed by men, women, teenagers and other children. It is important to know that just because the victim ‘didn’t say no’ does not mean that they meant ‘yes’ or that they consented. Some examples of sexual abuse include:

  • Sexual touching of any part of the body, clothed or unclothed including using an object
  • All penetrative sex, including penetration of the mouth with an object or part of the body
  • Refusing to use condoms or restricting someone’s access to birth control and protection against sexually transmitted diseases and infections
  • Sexual contact with someone who is very drunk, drugged, unconscious or otherwise unable to give clear, informed consent
  • Encouraging a child to engage in sexual activity including sexual acts with someone else or making a child strip or masturbate
  • Intentionally engaging in sexual activity in front of a child
  • Not taking appropriate measures to prevent a child being exposed to sexual activity by others
  • Meeting a child following sexual grooming, or preparation, with the intention of abusing them
  • Taking, making, permitting to take, distributing, showing or advertising indecent images of children
  • Paying for the sexual services of a child or encouraging them into prostitution or pornography
  • Showing a child images of sexual activity including photographs, videos or via webcams

Signs of sexual abuse

Children who have been sexually abused may show a variety of signs which may include:

  • Suddenly starting to behave differently – aggressive behaviour, sleep problems, bed-wetting or soiling, risk-taking behaviour during adolescence, negative thoughts, not looking after themselves, problems with school or skipping school
  • Avoiding particular adults – avoiding being alone with a particular family member, fear of an adult or is reluctance to socialise with them
  • Sexually inappropriate behaviour – becoming sexually active at a young age, promiscuity, use of sexual language or information that you would not expect them to know
  • Physical symptoms – anal or vaginal sores, an unusual discharge, pregnancy.

Find out more about sexual abuse in the links below:

Information on sexual abuse (NSPCC)

Spotting signs of sexual abuse (NHS)

Communicating with children: a guide for those working with children who have or may have been sexually abused

Communicating with children: a guide for those working with children who have or may have been sexually abused PDF

See also on NSPCC Learning  –  Let children know you’re listening

Opening doors – Suggested Practice for Medical Professionals for When a Child Might Be Close to Telling About Abuse

Who to contact

POLICE: 101 or in an emergency 999

MASH: 01403 229 900

OUT OF HOURS DUTY TEAM: 0330 222 6664

NSPCC: 0808 800 5000

Childline: 0800 11 11


STOP IT NOW: 0808 1000 900