Child Sexual Abuse

What Child Sexual Abuse Looks Like

  • a child is touched or fondled for the sexual arousal of an adult
  • an adult exposes themselves to a child, or masturbates in front of them
  • a child is purposely exposed to watching a sexual act
  • a child is made to masturbate themselves while someone watches
  • someone intrusively watches a child showering/bathing
  • vaginal or anal penetration, with penis or fingers or an object
  • forcing a child to have oral sex, or performing oral sex on them
  • a child is shown pornographic material
  • a child is filmed or photographed for the purpose of pornography
  • a child is used for prostitution or sex trafficking
  • the possession, sale or viewing of any pornographic material depicting children

Dynamics of Child Sexual Abuse

  • physical force is rarely used
  • the perpetrator tends to try to gain the child’s trust and coerce them into contact
  • the perpetrator is usually a trusted person in the child’s life
  • it always involves secrets
  • it usually is ongoing for weeks or even years
  • it usually increases in severity as the perpetrator gradually sexualizes the relationship (this is called grooming)
  • incest or intrafamilial abuse occurs in 1/3 child sexual abuse cases

Risk Factors of Child Sexual Abuse

  • being female
  • children in foster care, step children and adopted children
  • differently abled children
  • parents with mental illness or an alcohol/drug dependency
  • history of abuse (abused children are at a higher risk of being abused again)

Statistics about Child Sexual Abuse

  • 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will sexually abused in Canada before the age of 18
  • it is one of the most under-reported crimes, fewer than 10% of assaults being reported to police
  • poverty, homelessness and racism are risk factors for childhood sexual abuse

The Long-term Effects of Abuse

Women who were abused as children have a higher risk of victimization later in life. The risk of being raped or battered as adults is approximately doubled for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. The desire for nurturance and care makes it hard for survivors, particularly those who have not processed their abuse, to establish safe and appropriate boundaries with others. Childhood survivors of abuse become very good at dissociating themselves from their suffering and living in denial; it becomes easy for them to fall into this pattern of living in the context of adult abuse.

Women who have come out of violent homes have a great deal invested in their new adult families. They survived their childhood and have attempted to create a new violence-free life. They may suffer with problems of self-esteem, and may doubt their own judgment. They may not have a family to support them. Their history makes it difficult for them to leave abusive situations.

It is important for children to be protected from abuse. And it is important for adults who have been abused as children to seek professional help in processing the pain they’ve experienced, even if it happened long ago.