Whether you are a parent, teacher, or someone else who cares for and loves children, the best defense against sexual abuse is to educate yourself and your children about it.
Child sexual abuse involves an adult engaging in any type of sexual activity with a child or adolescent. It may also involve an adolescent engaging in sexual activity with a younger child.
There are different forms of sexual abuse. Like other forms of abuse, it can be physical, verbal, or emotional. It may be subtle enough that a child does not know what’s happening, but only feels uncomfortable. According to the organization Stop It Now, child sexual abuse includes:
In most cases of sexual abuse, the child knows the offender. The offender is often someone the child trusts or loves, such as a parent, neighbor, or relative.
Children often don’t tell others about sexual abuse because they feel frightened, ashamed, and confused. Their abusers often convince them that it must be kept a secret. Be alert for the following potential warning signs:
Here are some ways that parents can help lessen the chance of sexual abuse:
American Psychological Association
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children
Canadian Red Cross
Child abuse. Nemours Kids Health website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/parent/positive/talk/child_abuse.htm. Updated January 2012. Accessed October 1, 2014.
Child sexual abuse. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry website. Available at: http://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/Facts_for_Families_Pages/Child_Sexual_Abuse_09.aspx. Updated March 2011. Accessed October 1, 2014.
Lahoti SL, McClain N, et al. Evaluating the child for sexual abuse. Am Fam Physician. 2001;63(5):883-893.
McDonald KC. Child abuse: Approach and management. Am Fam Physician. 2007;75(2):221-228.
Responding to child sexual abuse. American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry website. Available at: http://www.aacap.org/AACAP/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/Facts_for_Families_Pages/Responding_To_Child_Sexual_Abuse_28.aspx. Updated March 2011. Accessed October 1, 2014.
Sexual abuse. American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children website. Available at: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-home/Pages/Sexual-Abuse.aspx. Updated August 7, 2013. Accessed October 1, 2014.
Warning signs. Stop It Now website. Available at: http://www.stopitnow.org/warnings. Accessed October 1, 2014.
What is considered child sexual abuse? Stop It Now website. Available at: http://www.stopitnow.org/warning_signs_csa_definition. Accessed October 1, 2014.
Last reviewed September 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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