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Understanding Child Sexual Abuse

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What is CSA?

Sexual abuse of children involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening.
The activities may involve physical contact, including abuse by penetration or non-penetrative acts (such as masturbation, kissing, rubbing and touching outside clothing). They may also include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, sexual images, watching sexual activities, encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways, or grooming a child in preparation for abuse including via the internet.

Child sexual abuse includes child sexual exploitation.

What are the signs of CSA?

The below list isn’t exhaustive. The symptoms don’t always mean someone has experienced child sexual abuse. It’s about learning the possible signs, so that you’re aware and can help prevent and identify child sexual abuse.

  • Children could exhibit sexually inappropriate behaviour or use sexually explicit language.
  • Lack peer relationships
  • Children may engage in self-harm, cutting, burning or other harmful activities
  • Develop anxiety
  • Have soreness in the genital and anal areas or sexually transmitted infections, UTIs or pregnancy
  • They may develop new fears of people or places
  • Children may have new clothing, phones or have gifts, outside of birthday and Christmas months
  • Children may drop hints and clues that the abuse is happening without revealing it outright
  • Spending more time online, texting or gaming
  • They may not want to get changed or take part in PE or sports
  • A child may start being aggressive, withdrawn, clingy, have difficulties sleeping, have regular nightmares or bed wetting
  • You may see changes in eating habits
  • They might become secretive about what they are doing online or who they are talking to
  • They may refuse to go to school
  • An abused child may have difficulty concentrating and learning
  • They may act out inappropriate behaviours with toys or objects or playing sexual games
  • You may notice a decline in their hygiene
  • You may see a regression to a younger age
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What is the impact of CSA?

This list is not exhaustive. Other symptoms may occur, and not experience all the symptoms may be experienced.

  • Panic attacks
  • Body Dysmorphia
  • Night Terrors
  • PTSD
  • Disassociaton
  • Self harm and suicidal ideation
  • Sadness
  • Low mood
  • Anger
  • Loneliness
  • Low Mood
  • Confusion
  • Substance abuse
  • Addiction
  • Eating disorders
  • Hyperactivity
  • Anger
  • Depression
  • Feelings of guilt and shame
  • Personality disorders
  • Hypervigilance
  • Social dysfunction

How can we prevent CSA?

  • Don’t use fictitious names for body parts, teach children the accurate names of private body parts
  • Have age appropriate conversations about sex education, relationships and anatomy
  • Teach them good touch, bad touch
  • Try not to focus exclusively on stranger danger
  • Let children know that they have the right to make decisions about their bodies.
  • Empower them to say no when they do not want to be touched
  • Make sure children know that adults and older children never need help with their private body parts
  • Teach children to take care of their own private parts so they don’t have to rely on adults or older children for help
  • Educate children about the difference between good secrets (like surprise parties—which are okay because they are not kept secret for long) and bad secrets (those that the child is supposed to keep secret forever, which are not okay)
  • Be available to the child
  • Reassure them that anything they come to you with wouldn’t result in getting into trouble. Avoid punishing children for speaking up
  • Try and keep computers and devices in shared spaces. There is an app called MM guardian and others are available
  • Have conversations with your children, keep communication open and fluid
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