Child sexual abuse is any exploitive or coercive sexual experience
involving a person under the age of 18. This may include touching
or non-touching behaviors, including voyeurism, exhibitionism,
pornography, fondling, intercourse, and prostitution.
Child sexual abuse often begins with seemingly
innocent intrusions into a child’s personal space. The offender slowly tests
and “grooms” the child to accept abuse which
may escalate over a period of time.
Most sexual abusers are people known and
trusted by their child victims. Only 10-15 percent are strangers.
Often it is hard for the child’s family to believe
that a beloved friend or family member has done such a thing.
The hurt caused by the abuse it compounded by the trust betrayed.
Further hurt is caused if those closest to the child do not
believe the child when she or he discloses the abuse.
Although offenders may use physical force to perpetrate abuse,
more typically rely on threats threats, bribery, emotional
force, or simply the force of their authority over the child.
Sometimes, the force is implied, rather than over.
Threats: “If you tell, you’ll
be taken to a foster home.”
Bribery: “I’ll let you stay
Emotional Force: “I won’t like
Authority: “This is our secret—don’t
While physical pain may or may not be inflicted, child sexual
abuse causes deep emotional pain which may be slow to heal.
A survivor may carry feelings of fear, guilt, mistrust, and
shame well into adulthood.