Rape Crisis & Sexual Assault Services

CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE


If you are worried about a child – call Rape Crisis 24 hours a day/ seven days a week at 706-724-5200 or 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)


What is child sexual abuse?  

All sexual touching between an adult and a child is sexual abuse. Sexual touching between children can also be sexual abuse when there is a significant age difference (often defined as 3 or more years) between the children or if the children are very different developmentally or size-wise. Sexual abuse does not have to involve penetration, force, pain, or even touching. If an adult engages in any sexual behavior (looking, showing, or touching) with a child to meet the adult’s sexual needs or interest, it is sexual abuse.


Most often child sexual abuse is a gradual process and not a single event. By learning the early warning signs and how to effectively step in and speak up, sexual abuse can be stopped before a child is harmed. Adults must take the primary responsibility for preventing child sexual abuse by addressing any concerning or questionable behavior which may pose a risk to a child’s safety.


Child Sexual Abuse includes harmful contact and non-contact behaviors


Abusive physical contact or touching includes:    

  • Touching a child's genitals or private parts for sexual purposes
  • Making a child touch someone else's genitals or play sexual games
  • Putting objects or body parts (like fingers, tongue or penis) inside the vagina, in the mouth or in the anus of a child for sexual purposes


Non-contact sexual abuse includes:

  • Showing pornography to a child
  • Deliberately exposing an adult's genitals to a child
  • Photographing a child in sexual poses
  • Encouraging a child to watch or hear sexual acts
  • Inappropriately watching a child undress or use the bathroom
  • Sexually abusive images of children and the Internet


As well as the activities described above, there is also the serious and growing problem of people making and downloading sexual images of children on the Internet. To view sexually abusive images of children is to participate in the abuse of a child, and may cause someone to consider sexual interactions with children as acceptable.


Warning Signs

A Warning Sign is a chance for caring adults to recognize possible risk and to take action to protect children.  


Warning Signs in Children and Adolescents of Possible Child Sexual Abuse


Behavior you may see in a child or adolescent:

  • Has nightmares or other sleep problems without an explanation    
  • Seems distracted or distant at odd times       
  • Has a sudden change in eating habits
  • Refuses to eat
  • Loses or drastically increases appetite
  • Has trouble swallowing.
  • Sudden mood swings: rage, fear, insecurity or  withdrawal
  • Leaves “clues” that seem likely to provoke a discussion about sexual issues
  • Writes, draws, plays or dreams of sexual or frightening images
  • Develops new or unusual fear of certain people or places
  • Refuses to talk about a secret shared with an adult or older child
  • Talks about a new older friend
  • Suddenly has money, toys or other gifts without reason
  • Thinks of self or body as repulsive, dirty or bad        
  • Exhibits adult-like sexual behaviors, language and knowledge


Signs more typical of younger children:    

  • An older child behaving like a younger child (such as bed-wetting or thumb sucking)
  • Has new words for private body parts
  • Resists removing clothes when appropriate times (bath, bed, toileting, diapering)
  • Asks other children to behave sexually or play sexual games
  • Mimics adult-like sexual behaviors with toys or stuffed animal       
  • Wetting and soiling accidents unrelated to toilet training


Signs more typical in adolescents:  

  • Self-injury (cutting, burning)    
  • Inadequate personal hygiene     
  • Drug and alcohol abuse    
  • Sexual promiscuity  
  • Running away from home  
  • Depression, anxiety
  • Suicide attempts
  • Fear of intimacy or closeness
  • Compulsive eating or dieting


Physical warning signs:

Physical signs of sexual abuse are rare.  If you see these signs, bring your child to a doctor.   Your doctor can help you understand what may be happening and test for sexually transmitted diseases.

   

  • Pain, discoloration, bleeding or discharges in genitals, anus or mouth    
  • Persistent or recurring pain during urination and bowel movements
  • Wetting and soiling accidents unrelated to toilet training


[Resources courtesy of Stop It Now]


Building a Community Free of Sexual Violence