Sexual abuse of a child is a crime that can have a lifelong impact on the victim. It is defined as intentionally harming a child in a sexual manner and is a heinous act that may or may not involve violence. As a parent, professional, or victim, let these generalchild sex abusefrequently asked questions (FAQs) give you the information you need to help you move forward.
What Qualifies as Child Sexual Abuse?
The general definition of child sex abuse is having a minor take part in sexual activities either by force, intimidation, enticement, or violence. It can involve assault, rape, oral penetration, kissing, touching private parts, or masturbation. Sexually stimulating a child or using a child for an adult’s sexual stimulation is sexual 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 Codedefines child sexual abuse as 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 18 years of age. Any act of sexual penetration when the victim is under 18 also constitutes child sex abuse. The age of legal consent varies by state, but is usually either 17 or 18.
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 understand what is happening, not realize something is wrong, blame themselves, worry about getting in trouble, or fear retaliation from the perpetrator. TheU.S. Department of Health and Human Services reportsthat 9.2 percent of victimized children have suffered sexual assault. One in five girls and one in 20 boys are known to be victims of sexual abuse. Authorities agree the true numbers are likely far greater.
What is the Impact of Child Sexual Abuse?
Experiencing sexual abuse as a child can have long-term emotional and psychological effects on the victim. Many victims experience feelings of fear, shame, guilt, anxiety, and depression long after the abuse has ended. Abuse can interfere with a young person’s normal development and make him or her 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 and survivors can suffer significant psychic distress and may develop a permanent mistrust of others. Many develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and may experience flashbacks or 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?
For victims of child sex abuse and parents 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 with one of our experienced child sex abuse attorneys.