Child sexual abuse is a form of child abuse that involves an adult engaging in sexual activity with a minor. A child cannot consent to any form of sexual activity, period. This includes inappropriate touching, showing pornography, sex and exposure of body parts to the child. Sometimes a child will be physically hurt during the act, but even if there are no marks, a child can be traumatized by sexual abuse.
Unlike physical abuse, the physical signs of sexual abuse are not obvious and with some children there are no signs at all. Often emotional or behavioral signs are more commonly seen. If there are signs, below is a list of some of the signs you may find.
For additional information about signs of abuse visit Darkness to Light.
When a child tells you that he or she is being abused, you should:
Avoid denial and remain calm. A common reaction to child abuse is shock and denial. However, if you display denial to a child, or show shock or disgust at what they are saying, the child may be afraid to continue and will shut down. As hard as it may be, remain as calm and reassuring as you can.
Don’t interrogate. Let the child explain to you in his/her own words what happened, but don’t interrogate the child or ask leading questions. This may confuse and fluster the child and make it harder for them to continue their story.
Reassure the child that he/she did nothing wrong. It takes a lot for a child to come forward about abuse. Reassure him or her that you take what is said seriously, and that it is not the child’s fault.
Call your local child protective services agency. If you suspect that a child is being abused, you need to call your local child protective services agency. In Milwaukee county, that number is (414) 220-SAFE. To find the child abuse hotlines in other Wisconsin counties, click here or call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD. For more information about this see Common Concerns About Reporting Abuse.
You can help a child reduce the long term effects of sexual abuse by:
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