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What is child sexual abuse?

Child sexual abuse is a form of child abuse that includes sexual activity with a minor. A child cannot consent to any form of sexual activity, period. When a perpetrator engages with a child this way, they are committing a crime that can have lasting effects on the victim for years. Child sexual abuse does not need to include physical contact between a perpetrator and a child. Some forms of child sexual abuse include:

  • Exhibitionism, or exposing oneself to a minor

  • Fondling

  • Intercourse

  • Masturbation in the presence of a minor or forcing the minor to masturbate

  • Obscene phone calls, text messages, or digital interaction

  • Producing, owning, or sharing pornographic images or movies of children

  • Sex of any kind with a minor, including vaginal, oral, or anal

  • Sex trafficking

  • Any other sexual conduct that is harmful to a child's mental, emotional, or physical welfare

What do perpetrators of child sexual abuse look like?

The majority of perpetrators are someone the child or family knows.


As many as 93 percent of victims under the age of 18 know the abuser. A perpetrator does not have to be an adult to harm a child. They can have any relationship to the child including an older sibling or playmate, family member, a teacher, a coach or instructor, a caretaker, or the parent of another child.

Abusers can manipulate victims to stay quiet about the sexual abuse using a number of different tactics. Often an abuser will use their position of power over the victim to coerce or intimidate the child. They might tell the child that the activity is normal or that they enjoyed it. An abuser may make threats if the child refuses to participate or plans to tell another adult.


Child sexual abuse is not only a physical violation; it is a violation of trust and/or authority.

  • Nightmares

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Bed wetting

  • Change in appetite

  • Fear of certain people, places, activites

  • Mood swings: Rage, Anger, Fear, anxiety, insecure or withdrawn

  • Depression

  • Aggression

  • Feeling shameful or guilty

  • Isolating oneself

  • Withdrawl from someone

  • Resisting removing clothes when appropriate times (bedtime, bathtime)

  • Change in academics

  • Running away from home

  • Suicidal thoughts

  • Acting out sexually

  • Exhibits adult sexual behaviors, knowledge, and language.

Warning Signs of an Abused Child

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