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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Injuries and Wounds > Child Sexual Abuse
      Category : Health Centers > Abuse and Violence

Child Sexual Abuse

Alternate Names : Child Molestation

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

Child sexual abuse is any experience during childhood or adolescence that involves inappropriate sexual attention from another person. This person is usually an adult but can also be an older child, teenager, or even a person the same age.

Sexual abuse can take place within the family by a parent, stepparent, sibling, or other relative. It also can occur outside the family by a friend, neighbor, caregiver, teacher, or random molester. Children are often afraid to tell anyone what has happened. A recent study of girls in 9th through 12th grade found that one out of five girls were physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner.

There are three types of sexual abuse: nontouching sexual abuse, touching sexual abuse, and sexual exploitation.

Nontouching sexual abuse includes:

  • deliberately exposing a child to the act of sexual intercourse
  • exposing a child to pornographic material
  • indecent exposure or exhibitionism
  • masturbating in front of a child
  • Touching sexual abuse can include:

  • any penetration of a child's vagina or anus by an object that doesn't have a medical purpose
  • fondling
  • making a child touch an adult's sexual organs
  • Sexual exploitation can include:

  • engaging a child for the purposes of prostitution
  • using a child to film, photograph, or model pornography
  • What are the causes and risks of the injury?

    Sexual abuse happens to children of all religions, ethnic origins, and income levels. Often the abuser is someone the child knows, rather than a stranger. A person who was sexually abused as a child is more likely to become an abuser as an older child or adult.

    Experts know that adolescents who have been abused are at higher risk for other health problems. However, we do not yet know whether the health problems came before the abuse or if the abuse increased the risk for the health problem. These problems include the following:

  • adolescent pregnancy
  • alcohol use, including binge drinking
  • cocaine abuse
  • risky sexual behaviors, including intercourse before age 15 and multiple partners
  • smoking
  • suicidal attempts or thoughts
  • unhealthy weight management, including eating disorders


    Next section


    Child Sexual Abuse: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Gail Hendrickson, RN, BS
    Reviewer: Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN
    Date Reviewed: 09/04/01

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