Friday, 27 January 2012

What Constitutes Child Sexual Abuse?

This week I have invited back Dr Nicola Davies who wrote an excellent article for me last year. You may remember it?

In the Shadows: Male Sexual Abuse Survivors

I was chatting with Nicola last week and mentioned that there was apparent confusion over what constituted child sexual abuse. Nicola loves to write and today I publish the result. Many thanks again Nicola for the work you do.

What Constitutes Child Sexual Abuse?

There are many misconceptions as to what constitutes child sexual abuse (CSA). Is it abusive to inappropriately watch a child undress? How about to physically examine a child for no clear reason? Or, to show them pornography? Does touch have to be involved in order for it to constitute sexual abuse? Some people will read these questions and find it difficult to see how anyone could not see all of them as sexually abusive. However, the lack of understanding over what constitutes CSA is far too prevalent and not everyone is clear on this topic.

To allay any doubts:

 All sexual activity 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 (usually 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 behaviour (looking, showing, or touching) with a child to meet their own interest or sexual needs, it is sexual abuse.


Physical contact that constitutes CSA includes:

• Making a child touch someone else's genitals

• Touching a child's genitals for sexual purposes

• Making a child play sexual games

• Penetrating via putting an object body parts inside the child for sexual purposes, including the vagina, mouth and anus.

• Physically examining a child for sexual gratification.

• Engaging a child in prostitution.

Non-contact behaviours that constitute CSA include:

• Sexualised genital exposure from an adult to a child

• Making a child perform sexual poses

• Photographing a child naked or in sexual poses

• Showing a child pornography

• Making a child watch sexual acts

• Making a child listen to sexual acts

• Inappropriately watching a child undress or use the bathroom

• Downloading indecent, sexual images of children on the Internet

• Witnessing others being sexually abused

What to do if you suspect CSA:

If you think you were a victim of CSA, you were. It can be all too easy to dismiss an event we were uncomfortable with because it didn’t involve touch or it was carried out by someone we knew. If you feel that you were subjected to CSA, trust your own judgment – you wouldn’t be suspecting it without good reason.

If you are someone who has any suspicions at all that a child you know is being sexually abused, do not wait for ‘proof’ – report it immediately to the local police or social services. Alternatively, call the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000. If you have concerns about someone you think might have a sexual interest in children, contact Stop IT Now on 0808 1000 900.

Dr Nicola J Davies,
BSc (Hons); MSc Comm.; PhD; MBPsS
Health Psychology Consultant and Freelance Writer

Nicola's Blog


Nico said...

I am pretty sure this is too... My brother among other things ... told me at a much to much young age ... sexual things I would do at an older age or a boy would do... he described these in great detail.... it was gross it i can still picture it he told me in the car... I was 6 he was 20 .. sick... oh and I also was molested by a counselor (female) sent me naked pics of herself at a bondage convention ... wrong .. needless to say she doesn't practice anymore ... :)

Annski said...

My father sexually abused my daughter when she was 3.5 yrs old. I know because she told me 3 days after he commited his vile act. I told my 3 sisters first, 2 of whom were mothers, I then told my mother, police & social services, none of whom believed me. My family hasn't spoken to us since. My daughter is now 15 and a half. One of my 2 brothers still speaks to us. I had no choice but to believe my baby daughter.

getthelidoff said...

You did the right thing, no matter what anybody says or does! It is sad you received NO support during such a terrible ordeal. Stay strong. Feel free to visit if you are interested in changing how victims are supported to become survivors. I am going to the TN legislature and also have a petition on my blog if you are interested in signing. My thoughts are with you and your daughter, even now, as lives with this history are forever impacted. I'm @thangel77 on twitter if you do the tweet thing. :)

Patricia Singleton said...

Thanks for sharing this important information about what child abuse is. Everyone needs to know this so that they can protect children.

The Lamplighters said...

Hello, great website Do you know anyone who can start a Lamplighter chapter in their area. The Lamplighter Movement is an international movement for recovery from incest and child sexual abuse that currently has 93 chapters in 13 countries. It's so easy, costs nothing. All the info is on our website at
Margie McKinnon

Adrian N said...

If there has been abusive behaviour, the environment becomes abusive and it becomes non stop in a way until it has been brought up and dealt with. Inapropriate exposure to nudity and sexual acts left with some inappropriate behaviour around other people when I hit early adulthood. Let's not forget the access provided to porn. It's not healthy. It is abusive.


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