Child sex abuse is a crime that can have a lifelong impact on the victim. Child sexual abuse is an aggressor intentionally neglecting or harming a child in a sexual manner. It is a heinous act that may or may not involve a level of violence. As a parent, professional, or victim, let these general child sex abuse frequently asked questions (FAQs) help you get the information you need to move forward.
What Qualifies as Child Sexual Abuse?
The general definition of child sex abuse is making a minor take part in sexual activities, either by force, intimidation, enticement, or violence. Child sex abuse can involve assault, rape, oral penetration, kissing, touching private parts, or masturbation. Sexually stimulating a child or using a child for sexual adult stimulation is child sex abuse. Other forms of abuse may involve children watching sexual activities, encouraging children to behave in sexual ways, child prostitution, or sexual exploitation.
In Illinois, the Criminal Code defines child sexual abuse as committing an act of contact between the sex organ or anus of one person and a body part of another person for the purpose of arousal or sexual gratification of either party, when the victim is under 17 years of age. Any act of sexual penetration when the victim is under 17 also constitutes child sex abuse.
How Common is Child Sex Abuse?
Child sexual abuse goes widely unreported. It is a hidden crime that many victims do not report. Victims may not know what is happening, not realize something is wrong, blame themselves, worry about getting in trouble, or fear retaliation from the perpetrator. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that 9.2% of victimized children suffered sexual assault. One in five girls and one in twenty boys are victims of sexual abuse. Authorities agree the true numbers are likely far greater.
What are the Impacts of Child Sex Abuse?
Experiencing sexual abuse as a child can have long-term emotional and psychological impacts on the victim. Many victims experience feelings of fear, shame, guilt, anxiety, and depression long after the sex abuse has ended. Abuse can interfere with the child’s normal development and make the child more likely to exhibit certain behaviors, such as:
- Regression (bed-wetting and thumb-sucking)
- Trouble sleeping or nightmares
- Changes in eating habits
- Behavior/outburst/aggression problems
- Anxiety attacks
- Self-destructive behaviors
- Alcoholism or drug abuse
- Suicidal thoughts or actions
Child sexual abuse victims can suffer significant psychological distress and may develop a permanent mistrust of others. Many victims develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and may experience flashbacks and panic attacks. Some may react with fear or anxiety around people who share characteristics with their perpetrators.
What Help is Available for Child Sex Abuse Victims?
As the victim of child sex abuse or the parent of a child exhibiting signs of sexual abuse, help is available. Call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 800-4-A-CHILD (422-4453) any time for assistance. Report the crime or your suspicions of abuse right away. Then, call Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC to discuss filing a civil claim against the perpetrator. It is possible to file a civil claim during an ongoing criminal investigation. Call (888) 424-5757 for a free, confidential consultation in Chicago.