Is It Sexual Abuse?

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What is Child Sexual Abuse?

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 Child Sexual Abuse

  • Indecent exposure
  • Propositioning for sexual acts
  • Sexualized teasing, through fondling, vaginal intercourse, anal penetration or oral sexual contact.
  • Exposing a child to pornography
  • Sexual gestures
  • Sexualized writing/texting
  • 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
  • Human sex trafficking of children

What is a “Position of Power”?

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, babysitter, 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.)