What is Child Sexual Abuse?

Child sexual abuse is sexual contact between a child and an adult or older child for the sexual gratification of the offender. Sexual abuse can be physical or nonphysical. Examples of physical sexual abuse include fondling or inappropriate touching of any kind, rape or attempted rape, or making the child read or participate in pornography. Examples of nonphysical abuse include indecent exposure, talking about sex with the intent of shocking the child or sparking their curiosity, and allowing the child to watch or hear sexual acts or materials. Molestation and exploitation are also considered sexual abuse. This does not always mean sexual intercourse.

All of these acts are considered abuse, even if the offender says he/she was gentle and did not hurt the child. Sexual abuse is NEVER the child's fault and is always forced, even though the force may be subtle rather than an obvious physical attack.

An offender may use psychological forces, such as bribery or taking advantage of a child's dependence and lack of knowledge. There may be threats of harm and withdrawal of love. Since children are taught to trust adults, they usually believe these types of threats, making it very difficult to disclose abuse.

Additional Facts About the Dynamics of Child Sexual Abuse

View some staggering statistics and information gathered by Darkness to Light, a national non-profit organization whose mission is the primary prevention of child sexual abuse. Darkness to Light focuses its efforts on shifting the responsibility from children to adults by educating them to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse.