Any form of adult/child sexualized interaction constitutes child sexual abuse. Children do not have the level of knowledge, maturity or emotional development to provide consent to such interactions. Sexual abuse of a child may also occur through behaviors that do not involve actual physical contact.
Contact sexual abuse includes:
- Touching the genital area, over or under clothing
- Touching breasts, over or under clothing
- Encouraging or forcing the touching of another’s genital area
- Oral sex
- Vaginal or and anal penetration with a part of the body (e.g. finger, penis) or with an object
Non-contact sexual abuse includes:
- Invitation to touch another in a sexual way
- Voyeurism (“Peeping Tom”)
- Encouraging or forcing a child to masturbate or to watch others masturbate
- Indecent exposure (‘flashing’ or showing genital areas)
- Involving children in looking at, or in the production of pornographic materials or watching sexual activities
- Encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways
Some reasons children do not speak about being abuse include:
They are confused
They do not have words
They are afraid
They do not want to upset their parents
They think it is their fault
They do not think they can say no to an older person
Here are some things you as a parent can do to help children SPEAK about their abuse:
Teach children not to keep secrets from their parents. Tell all the adults in your children’s lives not to ask them to keep secrets. [A secret is forever. A surprise is different from a secret because it will be revealed at a designated time.]
Teach children that body parts covered by bathing suits are private and no one should ask to see or touch those parts or ask you to see or touch those private parts. Encourage your children to have control over their bodies as early as possible. Teach them to clean and wash themselves, and allow them to decide whom they want to kiss and hug.
Give children words for the private parts of their bodies as part of teaching them words for other body parts. Answer their questions about reproduction and sexuality in age appropriate ways. Do not make it uncomfortable for your child to get this information from you.
Encourage your children to come to you with questions about behaviors they have seen elsewhere. Let them know that you take their concerns seriously and will not be angry with them for asking. Help them feel comfortable asking questions about anything that is confusing to them by responding positively and calmly to their questions.
Know what is age-typical sexual interest and what is not. Pre-adolescent children do not typically engage in or try to mimic adult sexual activity (oral, anal, or vaginal sex). They do not attempt to coerce other children into any sexual activities. They have curiosity about sex, but it is not the only thing they are interested in. Exploration usually involves activities done with eyes and hands, not with mouths or genitalia. If you see atypical behavior, seek professional help.