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.