A child is sexually abused when they are forced or persuaded to take part in sexual activities.
This doesn't have to be physical contact and it can happen online. Sometimes the child won't understand that what's happening to them is abuse.
They may not even understand that it's wrong. Or they may be afraid to speak out.
Types of child sexual abuse
There are two different types of child sexual abuse. These are called contact abuse and non-contact abuse.
Contact abuse involves touching activities where an abuser makes physical contact with a child, including penetration. It includes:
- sexual touching of any part of the body whether the child's wearing clothes or not
- rape or penetration by putting an object or body part inside a child's mouth, vagina or anus
- forcing or encouraging a child to take part in sexual activity
- making a child take their clothes off, touch someone else's genitals or masturbate
Non-contact abuse involves non-touching activities, such as grooming, exploitation, persuading children to perform sexual acts over the internet and flashing. It includes:
- encouraging a child to watch or hear sexual acts
- not taking proper measures to prevent a child being exposed to sexual activities by others
- meeting a child following sexual grooming with the intent of abusing them
- online abuse including making, viewing or distributing child abuse images
- allowing someone else to make, view or distribute child abuse images
- showing pornography to a child
- sexually exploiting a child for money, power or status (child exploitation)
Developing healthy brains
Every child needs loving, nurturing care from the adults around them if they are to develop
the healthy brains they need to be able to thrive and this is even more important in the first few years of life. The toxic stress that abuse causes means that a child's healthy brain development can be impaired.
The good news is our brains aren't fully formed until around the age of 25, so there are
opportunities to help young people develop the skills they need and to overcome the impact of earlier toxic stress.
Watch this short film to find out more about the impact toxic stress can have on a child’s healthy brain development.