Child sexual abuse is the use of a child for sexual gratification by an older or more powerful person. The offender is usually an adult, but could also be a more powerful child. Both girls and boys are vulnerable. It is a crime punishable by law.
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Child sexual abuse includes the following ‘touching’ and ‘non-touching’ behaviours, but are not limited only to these acts.
Fondling a child's body for sexual pleasure
Kissing a child with sexual undertones/inclinations
Rubbing genitals against a child's body
Sexually touching a child's body, and specifically private parts (breasts and genitals). Includes encouraging or forcing a child to do likewise
Making a child touch someone else's genitals, or playing sexual ("pants-down") games
Encouraging or forcing a child to masturbate, with the child as either a participant or observer
Encouraging or forcing a child to perform oral sex (mouth-to-genital contact on or by the child)
Inserting objects or body parts (like fingers, tongue or penis) inside the vagina, mouth, or anus of a child; includes attempts of these acts
Encouraging a child to watch or hear sexual acts either in person or lowering the bars of privacy
Looking at a child sexually
Exposing one's private body parts to a child (exhibitionism)
Watching a child in a state of nudity, such as while undressing, using the bathroom, with or without the child's knowledge (voyeurism)
Making suggestive comments to the child that are sexual in nature
Commenting on the sexual development of a child
Encouraging or forcing a child to read/watch pornography, giving pornographic material or using the child in pornography
Making, viewing or downloading sexual images of children on the Internet
Children often show us rather than tell us that something is upsetting them. There may be many reasons for changes in their behaviour, but if we notice a combination of worrying signs it may be time to call for help or advice.
Acting out in an inappropriate sexual way with toys or objects
Nightmares, sleeping problems
Becoming withdrawn or very clingy
Becoming unusually secretive
Sudden unexplained personality changes, mood swings and seeming insecure
Regressing to younger behaviours, e.g. bedwetting
Unaccountable fear of particular places or people
Outburst of anger
Changes in eating habits
New adult words for body parts and no obvious source
Talk of a new, older friend and unexplained money or gifts
Self-harm (cutting, burning or other harmful activities)
Physical signs, such as unexplained soreness or bruises around genitals or mouth, sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy
Not wanting to be alone with a particular child or young person or adult
Physical signs of sexual abuse are rare; however, if you see these signs, take your child to a doctor. Your doctor can help you understand what may be happening and can test for sexually transmitted diseases.
Pain, swelling, discoloration, bleeding or discharges in genitals, anus or mouth
Discomfort when walking
Bruises on the body
Persistent or recurring pain during urination and bowel movements
Wetting and soiling accidents unrelated to toilet training
Believe the child!
Behave normally and make the child feel comfortable.
Communicate to the child that it is not his/her fault.
Inform the child that you will not divulge what they have shared with you in confidence.
Inform your child that you might need to take action against the perpetrator, so as to ensure the child's safety.
If the child reports the incident to you immediately, do not change the child’s clothes or give him/her a bath. This is important to follow so as to preserve any evidence.
Prepare the child for proceedings that might follow, such as a visit to the doctor or hospital for medical aid or an examination; visits from the police; sessions with a counsellor.
Take the child to the nearest hospital for a medical check-up and treatment.
Alert the nearest police station to the incident or the abuse. You need to register a complaint at the police station closest to where the child lives. After the complaint is filed, the police will take the child’s statement at the child’s home or in any place where the child feels safe. Even if the incident(s) has taken place more than 24 hours before you find out about it, you can still take legal action.
Take the child to a professional counsellor for help.