Hesperian Health Guides
Some facts about child sexual abuse
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Child sexual abuse means using a child for some kind of sexual activity. Sexual abuse can happen to any child. It happens in all communities, and in rich and poor families. It happens to both girls and boys. Most sexual abuse happens to children older than 5 years, but it happens to younger children too.
We do not know exactly how common sexual abuse is, since many children do not tell what happens to them. But it is possible that as many as 1 out of every 4 children in the world is sexually abused.
There are many ways children can be abused. Some are:
Abuse when a child is touched
- oral sex (when a man puts his penis in a child's mouth)
- kissing or hugging a child in a sexual way
- sexual intercourse or anal sex (when a man puts his penis in a child's vagina or anus)
- touching a child's genitals (sexual parts) or making a child touch an adult's or an older child's genitals
- forcing a child to become a prostitute (take money for doing sex)
Abuse when a child is not touched
- using sexual talk or pictures to shock a child, make her sexually excited, or make her familiar with sex
- making a child pose for sex pictures (pornography)
- making a child look at pornography
- making a child hear or watch sex between other people
Most sexual abusers are men. And most abused children are abused by someone they know, like a relative, a family friend, or a neighbor. Abuse is rarely done by a stranger. Sometimes the abuse goes on for a long time, even for years.
Not all people who abuse children sexually use physical force. Sometimes a person uses a position of trust or influence to make a child have sex. He might use persuasion and 'kindness', threats and bullying, or give gifts or treats. (An abuser may even be a deaf person who befriends the child.) Whether someone uses physical force, threats, or 'kindness' to make a child have sex, the result of the abuse is still very damaging to the child.