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Child Sexual Abuse is it sexual abuse?

If you are in immediate danger or feel unsafe, call 911.

YWCA Counseling Center
Call 616.459.4652 (business hours)


Sexual abuse of a child occurs when there is:

  • sexual interaction…
  • intended to be sexual or perceived as sexual…
  • either physical, verbal, in writing, or through gestures…
  • between a child and another individual who occupies a power position in the child's life.
This behavior is exploitive because the child does not have the developmental capacity, or may not be in the social position, to understand or resist. It does not need to involve physical force or be psychologically traumatic to be abusive. Even the apparent consent of a child to engage in the sexual behavior does not reduce its abusive nature.

Examples of sexual abuse include:

  • Indecent exposure
  • Propositioning for sexual acts
  • Sexualized teasing, through fondling, vaginal intercourse, anal penetration and/or oral sexual contact.
  • Exposing a child to pornography
  • Sexual gestures
  • Sexualized writing
  • Inappropriate conversations regarding sexuality
  • Acts that injure a child's genitals
  • Insertion of objects into the penis, anus, vaginal areas (except for legitimate medical reasons) of a child
  • Fondling a child under the pretense of applying medication
  • Sexualized photography involving children
  • Instructing children to be sexual with one another or with animals

A "position of power" is occupied when an individual is:

  • larger or stronger than the child, or the child believes that they are.
  • in a position of authority (parent, older sibling, baby-sitter, clergy, adult neighbor, scout leader, aunt, grandparent, etc)
  • looked up to by the child (older classmate, athlete, child with more toys)
  • more psychologically competent (regardless of age) than the victim (due to disability, drug-induced state, or cognitive limitations)
  • 3 or more years older than the child
  • has coercive ability over the child (with weapon, threats, withholdings, social sanctions, injury, secrets, etc.)

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YWCA West Central Michigan | 25 Sheldon Boulevard SE | Grand Rapids, MI 49503
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