What Is Sexual Abuse? Signs & Next Steps

Typically, sexual abuse describes behavior committed toward a minor child. Sexual abuse occurs when a child under the age of 18 years has been exposed to or subjected to sexual behaviors that are exploitative or inappropriate to his or her age.

Child abuse is a wide-spread problem.  Every 9 minutes, Child Protection Services substantiates of finds evidence for a claim of child sexual abuse. (RAINN)

In many states, children cannot consent to any type of sexual contact. If someone over the age of consent forces a minor into sexual interactions that behavior constitutes sexual abuse.

Perpetrators of child sexual abuse can include family members, neighbors, sports coaches, teachers, strangers and, any member of the community.

If you are under 18 and believe you are being sexually abused by an adult in your life, please reach out for help. This is NOT your fault. There is help.

What is Sexual Abuse?

There are a few unfounded myths surrounding sexual abuse that it is important to clarify:

It is much less likely that someone will be sexually abused by a stranger. While random attacks do happen, most survivors of sexual abuse report having a relationship with their abuser.

It is also fairly uncommon for sexual abuse victims to show outward signs of their abuse. Physical force is often not used in cases of sexual abuse.

Examples of sexual abuse include sexual penetration, inappropriate touching, exposure to sexual acts or pornographic materials, using the internet for grooming and soliciting children for sexual exploitation.

While the numbers do show higher frequencies of sexual abuse toward females, people of all races, sexes, and sexual orientations can be victims of sexual violence.

Signs of Sexual Abuse

Signs of sexual abuse can vary from person to person, but in the case of children, unusual responses to a specific person, sexualized play, or unusual fascination with reproductive parts can be signs of sexual abuse.

While this is not a comprehensive list, observing these qualities in your friends or family is cause for alarm and should be addressed. At the same time, it is not your responsibility to be a clinician or their psychiatrist. If you suspect someone you know is a victim of abuse, your first step should be to get help.

What You Can Do

Getting help quickly is the first step to ensuring that abuse stops and that the survivor can begin the road to recovery as quickly as possible.

Telling a trusted authority figure like a teacher, school counselor, or other administrator can also be a good way to find help. These individuals are legally bound to reach out to the proper authorities in cases of suspected abuse.

In an immediate crisis involving sexual violence, calling 9-1-1 is the quickest way to get in touch with the appropriate authorities to properly handle all of the legal and medical implications of sexual abuse.

Remember that even in the midst of all kinds of darkness, God’s love is always there for you. His heart breaks for those who experience sexual abuse and his deep desire is to help victims find hope and healing. If you want to know more about God’s love for you, TheHopeLine’s Hope Coaches are available to help you.

To learn more about issues like sexual abuse, emotional trauma, and abusive relationships, browse our library of podcasts, ebooks, and blogs to learn more about warning signs of abuse and the path to recovery:

  • What Are The Signs Of An Abusive Relationship?
  • What Can I Do If My Friend is Being Abused?
  • What Can I Do About An Abusive Relationship?

FAQ on Sexual Abuse:

Can I Heal After Sexual Abuse?

You need to know sexual abuse is never your fault and is never okay. You should never be made to keep secrets that make you uncomfortable. Please find someone who you trust to talk to about what’s going on in your life. It may be a pastor, school counselor, therapist, or doctor. But you must find some place to get help as soon as you possibly can.

Learn more

Most Recent Blogs on Sexual Abuse

Beacon Light Shares About Sexual Abuse


He Blamed God During his interview with Rapzilla about his remake of the song, Jesus Loves Me, Beacon Light shares that this song was his story.  He was sexually abused by a family member, from 3rd grade to middle school.  So in middle school, he went through a time of questioning..Read more

Coping with Sexual Abuse


You Can Be Whole Again I've decided to tackle one of the most difficult kinds of abuse there is: sexual. While any kind of abuse is damaging and wicked, sexual abuse is exceptionally destructive because of the twisted mixture of its physical, emotional, and spiritual elements. Most people refuse to talk..Read more

Sexual Abuse: Talleha’s Story [Video]


Here is Talleha's story: Talleha had been sexually abused and as a result, was depressed and ready to kill herself...then she found TheHopeLine with Dawson McAllister and found help and hope. https://youtu.be/r2shtrzfb7k More Stories of Abuse Survivors: Abbie's Story of Sexual Abuse How Patrick Found Hope 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused by the age of 18 1 in..Read more

What Are Red Flags to Look for When Dating Online?


Ten Red Flags to Look for When Dating Online “Dating.” It’s a tale as old as time. We all dream of meeting our soulmate, preferably in some romantic way that makes a great story to tell at parties for years to come. Whether you meet at school, the gym, the coffee..Read more

View More >

Podcasts about Sexual Abuse :

Videos on Sexual Abuse:

eBooks on Sexual Abuse :

Ask Dawson:

Stories on Sexual Abuse :

Sexual Abuse and Suicidal: They Didn’t Believe Me


I wasn’t really close to God. In fact, I was far away from Him. My History of Sexual Abuse I blocked my childhood sexual abuse memories. I was sexually abused by my mom’s boyfriend for 4 years. My family believes that my mom’s boyfriend is innocent, and nice. They don’t believe..Read more

Sexual Abuse: Scared to Tell My Story


When I found your site I was skeptical at first, I never told anyone about my dilemma. I was scared to tell my story, but knew I needed help. My Story of Sexual Abuse Before I was even five years old my half-brother, who is ten years older than me,..Read more

Sexual Abuse and Learning to Cope


  My Childhood was Full of Pain I was born into a drug using family. My father has never been in my life. My mother used drugs up until last year. While living with my mother I went through plenty of traumatic events such as not having a father, being..Read more

Eating Disorder: I Stopped Eating to Become “Good Enough”


I had to think long and hard about if I should share my story. Then I came to the conclusion that it would be worth it if it lets someone else know they aren’t alone, and it could be therapeutic for me. So here is my story and what led..Read more

View More >

Resources for Sexual Abuse :

Spiritual Perspective :

Verses of Hope

Free eBooks


Free eBook: Understanding a Relationship with God

Free eBook: Understanding a Relationship with God Do You Feel Like Life is Meaningless? Are you wondering what your purpose is? Do you have questions about what Christians believe or what it means to be a Christian? At TheHopeLine we believe real and lasting HOPE can only come through a relationship with Jesus. And this […]

View More >

Additional Resources

View More >