A child is sexually abused when they are forced or persuaded to take part in sexual activities. There does not have to be physical contact and it can happen online. Sometimes a child may not know what is happening to them is abuse and they may not even know that it is wrong.
Other times a child may know that it should not be taking place but, due to the shame and stigma attached, or out of fear or recrimination from the abuser many are frequently scared to say anything.
Sexual abuse of children is not a rare occurrence. It happens at all social levels, in all parts of the country, in all races and cultures. Today there is increased public awareness, however, the true extent of child sexual abuse remains hidden.
Grooming is when someone builds an emotional connection with a child to gain their trust for purposes of sexual abuse, child sexual exploitation or trafficking. Children can be groomed face to face or online, the person grooming could be a stranger or someone known to the child, they could be either gender and any age. Quite often children do not know or think they are being groomed, they believe they are just gaining an additional friend.
Child Sexual Exploitation
Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a type of child abuse. It happens when a young person is encouraged, or forced, to take part in sexual activity in exchange for something.
A child may be rewarded by presents, money, alcohol, or simply emotional support or attention.
As with grooming, this can happen to any child or young person and the perpetrator may be any age or gender. It might seem like a normal friendship or relationship to begin with.
It can happen online or offline, and without the young person being aware of it.
How are Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse Investigated?
Where a child makes an allegation of sexual abuse, it is very important that these allegations are not simply dismissed. A child is very unlikely to make a direct accusation of abuse due to the traumatic nature of the incident. It is more usual for initial allegations to be indirect as the child tests the professional’s response.
There may be no physical indicators of sexual abuse and it is only through observation of emotional and behavioural indicators that it may become evident.
Behavioural indicators which may show that child sexual abuse has occurred include:
- Inappropriate sexualised conduct;
- Sexually explicit behaviour, play or conversation, inappropriate to the child’s age;
- Contact or non-contact sexually harmful behaviour;
- Continual and inappropriate or excessive masturbation;
- Self-harm, self mutilation and suicide attempts;
- Involvement in sexual exploitation or indiscriminate choice of sexual partners;
- An anxious unwillingness to remove clothes even where conditions would dictate it not to be inappropriate e.g. for sports events.
- Goods or gifts appearing such as a new phone, perfume, iPad, game etc
There are some physical indicators which would suggest that child sexual abuse has occurred:
- Pain or itching of genital area;
- Blood on underclothes;
- Pregnancy in a child;
- Physical symptoms such as injuries to the genital or anal area, bruising to buttocks, abdomen and thighs, sexually transmitted disease, presence of semen on vagina, anus, external genitalia or clothing.