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Spotting the signs of sexual abuse

Spotting signs of sexual abuse

A child is sexually abused when they are forced or persuaded to take part in sexual activities. This doesn't have to be physical contact, and it can happen online. Sometimes the child won't understand that what's happening to them is abuse.

Parents text content

Child sexual abuse involves:

  • sexual touching of any part of the body, clothed or unclothed, including using an object
  • assault by penetration, including rape or penetration of the mouth with an object or part of the body
  • encouraging a child to engage in sexual activity, including:
  • sexual acts with someone else
  • making a child strip or masturbate
  • intentionally engaging in sexual activity in front of a child
  • not taking proper measures to prevent a child being exposed to sexual activities by others
  • meeting a child following sexual grooming, with the intent of abusing them
  • taking, making, allowing someone to take, distributing, showing or advertising indecent images of children
  • paying for the sexual services of a child
  • encouraging a child into prostitution or pornography
  • showing a child images of sexual activity, including photographs, videos or via webcams

Signs, symptoms and effects

Children who are sexually abused may:

Stay away from certain people

Avoid being alone with people, such as family members or friends

Seem frightened of a person or reluctant to socialise with them.

Show sexual behaviour that's inappropriate for their age

A child might become sexually active at a young age

They might be promiscuous

They could use sexual language or know information that you wouldn't expect them to.

Have physical symptoms

  • anal or vaginal soreness
  • an unusual discharge
  • sexually transmitted infection (STI)
  • pregnancy