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What is the Definition of 'Sex Abuse'?

Open Dictionary Showing DefinitionThe Merriam Webster Dictionary definition of ‘sex abuse’ is to inflict sexual contact or abuse upon one person by force, or to engage in sexual contact with someone who is below a certain age or otherwise cannot give consent due to mental or physical incapacities. Child sex abuse occurs when someone forces or entices a child to participate in sexual activities. If you suspect child sex abuse in your family or community, get help.

General Definition of Sex Abuse

Sexual abuse can involve physical touching and violence. It may go hand-in-hand with physical abuse, mental abuse, or child neglect. A perpetrator may inflict sex abuse upon a child through means of force, intimidation, or enticement. Sex abuse refers to any sexual contact, as well as any penetration of the victim’s mouth, anus, or vagina. Sexual touching, whether the victim is wearing clothes or not, is sex abuse.

Sexual abuse may also not involve any physical contact. Even if a perpetrator does not touch a victim, he or she can be guilty of committing sex abuse. Having a victim watch sexual acts, such as masturbation, is sexual abuse. Forcing or enticing a victim to commit sexual acts upon him/herself is also sex abuse. Grooming a child for sex abuse, child pornography, sexual exploitation, and persuading children to conduct sexual activities over the internet are all forms of child sex abuse.

State Sex Abuse Laws and Definitions

Each state has unique laws defining the crimes of sex abuse, child sex abuse, sexual assault, and sexual exploitation. Illinois Compiled Statutes Section 11-9-1 defines sexual exploitation of a child as engaging in a sexual act, exposing a sexual organ, or knowingly having a child removing his or her clothing for the purpose of sexual arousal or sexual gratification of either party. A sexual act can refer to any sexual touching, penetration, conduct, or masturbation. A “child” is anyone under 17 years of age. A person can commit sexual abuse against a child in person or virtually.

Examples of Sex Abuse

Any sexual conduct or touching that does not occur with the victim’s consent, or that happens to a minor, could qualify as sex abuse. Come forward with any suspicions regarding sex abuse, whether you are sure the action or behavior constitutes a breach of the law or not. Authorities can help you safeguard yourself or a loved one while investigating the situation. Some examples of sex abuse are as follows:

  • Touching a child’s genitals for an unnecessary reason or for sexual pleasure
  • Putting body parts or objects in someone else’s genitals, anus, or mouth
  • Forcing a child to touch someone else sexually
  • Sexual touching between children when there is an age difference of three or more years
  • Exposing a child to sex acts or pornography
  • Forcing or encouraging a child to perform sexual acts
  • Performing sexual acts in a child’s presence or virtual presence
  • Watching a child undress or use the bathroom for sexual purposes
  • Photographing or videoing children in sexual acts or positions

If someone touches you in a sexual way or a way you do not like, without your permission or consent, you may be the victim of sexual abuse. The same is true in many non-touching situations, such as someone exposing his or her genitals to you or forcing you to look at sexual depictions. If you are the parent of a child who may be suffering sex abuse, continue reading for signs of sex abuse in children.

Signs of Child Sex Abuse

Sexual abuse statistics underestimate the pervasiveness of the problem. Sex abuse is a hidden crime that largely goes unreported. Many child victims will not come forward or speak out about sex abuse. It becomes the parent’s job to identify the signs of sex abuse and to say something. Detecting child sex abuse takes awareness from parents about the common signs and symptoms of abuse:

  • Trouble walking
  • Genitalia injuries
  • Bloody undergarments or sheets
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Inappropriate sexual knowledge
  • Regressive behaviors
  • Not wanting to be alone with someone
  • Cringing away from physical touch
  • Nightmares or bed-wetting
  • Behavioral issues
  • Feelings of guilt, shame, or fear
  • Anxiety or depression

Child sexual abusers are often people the victim and his or her family know. Child sex abuse is usually an ongoing crime rather than something that only happens once. If someone spends too much time with your child, tries to be your child’s friend instead of playing an adult role, does not respect boundaries, buys your child gifts for no reason, or does not seem to have an age-appropriate relationship with your child, be on the lookout. Take action the moment you suspect child sex abuse.

What to do About Child Sex Abuse

You are not alone if you suspect child sex abuse. Talk to someone with professional training to help you and your family. Contact the National Child Abuse Hotline at 800-4-A-CHILD (422-4453) or the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) 24/7. Staff members can walk you through the process of safeguarding your child and taking legal actions. When you are ready to discuss a civil claim with an attorney, contact Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC.


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