Child Sexual Assault
1. Child Sexual Assault Definition
2. Who are the Perpetrators of Child Sexual Abuse?
3. How Do You Know if a Child Has Been Sexually Abused?
4. What Are Some Symptoms or Possible Long-term Effects of Child Sexual Abuse?
5. There is Hope!
6. Adult Survivors
Child sexual abuse includes a wide range of sexual behaviors that takes place between a child and an older person. Behaviors that are sexually abusive often involve bodily contact, such as in the case of sexual kissing, touching, fondling of genitals, and oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse. However, behaviors may be sexually abusive even if they don’t involve contact, such as in the case of genital exposure (“flashing”), verbal pressure for sex, and sexual exploitation for purposes of prostitution or pornography.
Legal definitions of what constitutes child sexual abuse usually require that the perpetrator be older than the victim. For example, in some states sexual perpetrators must be at least 5 years older than their victims for the behavior to be considered child sexual abuse. In Washington State, depending on the age of the child, that difference can be as low as 3 years.
Unfortunately, there are not always obvious signs that a child has been sexually abused. Because sexual assault often occurs in private, and because it often does not result in physical evidence, child sexual abuse can be difficult to detect.
Some children who have been sexually abused may show symptoms of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), including agitated behavior, frightening dreams, and repetitive play in which aspects of the abuse are expressed. Because of their sexual abuse, children may show sexual behavior or seductiveness that is inappropriate for their age. Some children will tend to “act out” with behavior problems, such as cruelty to others and running away, while other children will “act in” by becoming depressed or by withdrawing from friends or family. Sometimes children may try to injure themselves or attempt suicide. Long term effects may include: poor body image and low self-esteem, depression, sexual anxiety and engage in the use of unhealthy behaviors, such as alcohol abuse, drug abuse, self-harm and cutting, or binging and purging, to help mask painful emotions.
Many parents and caregivers fear the life-long aftermath of abuse. Surprisingly, these possible outcomes are largely the minority. With positive intervention most children who have been sexually abused go on to lead successful symptom-free lives.
If you were abused as a child and suffer from any of these symptoms, it may help you to connect with an advocate or mental health professional that has expertise in working with people who have been sexually abused. Contact 1 (800) 336-9591 to set up an appointment to speak a SDV&SA advocate today.