Sexual abuse in childhood is a form of child abuse in which a child is forced or pressurised into engaging in sexual acts or activities for the gratification of an adult or an older adolescent. Sexual abuse includes direct sexual contact such as intercourse or oral sex, asking and pressurising a child to kiss and touch genitals, an adult indecently exposing their genitals to a child, displaying pornography to a child or using a child to produce pornography.
Children are usually abused by people close to them. That is, by members of the family: parent, carer, brothers, sisters or other close relatives or family friends, which makes it altogether more difficult for the child to talk about it and seek help.
Effects of child sexual abuse can result in serious short and long term effects. Short term effects include, a child suddenly behaving differently following his/her first experience, thinking badly of themselves, withdrawal and becoming secretive, difficulties sleeping, bed wetting, fearful and frightened of physical contact. Adolescents may try to run away from home, become promiscuous and start drinking alcohol and/or illicit substances. Long term effects include, psychological, emotional, physical and social effects including depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, physical injury, difficulties forming and maintaining relationships, among other problems.
If you have been abused or think that you may have, it can be very hard to talk about it at first. You can try to talk to your parents, a relative or a close friend; however, if you feel that they may not be able to help or you may not want to talk to them, then you can talk to a teacher or counsellor at school.
There are a number of leaflets and books with written information about sexual abuse that you can find useful. Also, with details of organisations where you can talk to someone anonymously, who understands and may be able to support, and guide you to seek professional help.
If you suspect that a child is being abused, you can contact their school or a local children’s charity or organisation for advice. Alternatively, you can contact your local social services team who will be able to offer more detailed advice.