Child sexual abuse: what is it?
Child sexual abuse is when adults or older children involve children in any type of sexual activity.
Sexually abusive behaviour includes sexual activity with sexual contact. For example, it can be someone:
- touching a child in a sexual way
- encouraging or forcing a child to masturbate or touch themselves or somebody else in a sexual way
- performing oral sex on a child or asking a child to perform oral sex
- putting penises, fingers or other objects in a child’s vagina or anus.
Sexually abusive behaviour also includes sexual activity without sexual contact. For example, it can be someone:
- showing their genitals to a child
- encouraging or forcing a child to show their genitals
- peeping while a child is going to the toilet, bathing or undressing, or encouraging or forcing a child to peep on somebody else
- making sexual comments to a child or about a child
- getting a child to look at pornography
- encouraging, bribing or forcing a child to make or send videos or photos of themselves or other children in their underwear, partially dressed or naked.
Child sexual abuse is never a child’s fault, no matter what happened or how it happened. People who sexually abuse children are solely and fully responsible for their actions.
Child sexual abuse is a serious crime.
Children of all ages and genders can be at risk of sexual abuse. It can happen to children from all cultures and socioeconomic groups. And most child sexual abuse is carried out by someone children know – for example, a family member. And people who sexually abuse children look and act like everyone else. They don’t look, sound or dress in a particular way.
Questions or concerns about child sexual abuse
It’s OK to have questions and concerns about child sexual abuse and protecting your child or the child you’re caring for. The articles below have answers and suggestions for keeping your child safe.
How can you keep children safe from child sexual abuse?
- Child sexual abuse: talking to children 0-11 years
- Child sexual abuse: talking to teenagers
- Child sexual abuse: safeguarding children
How can you tell if children have been sexually abused?
What can you do if children have been sexually abused?
- Child sexual abuse: what to do if children or teenagers experience it
- Child sexual abuse: supporting children or teenagers who have experienced it
- Child sexual abuse: helplines and services
- Sexual assault and teenagers
All children have the right to grow up safe from abuse. Talking with children about sexual abuse and protecting children from sexual abuse is part of creating safe environments that help children grow and thrive.