Is it considered child sexual abuse if someone shows a child pornographic pictures but doesn’t actually touch the child?

Dear Stop It Now!,

Is it considered child sexual abuse if someone shows a child pornographic pictures, but doesn’t actually touch the child? Doesn't a child need to be physically molested in order for it to be considered child sex abuse?

Dear Concerned Adult,

Showing pornographic pictures to a child is considered sexual abuse.

Child sexual abuse can include non-touching behaviorsi

Purposely exposing a child to adult sexuality is considered a form of child sexual abuse, whether or not a child is touched.  Non-touching behaviorsi can be just as upsetting and emotionally harmful to a child as some touching behaviorsi. Non-touching behaviorsi that are considered to be child sexual abuse include:

  • Showing pornography to a child.
  • Exposing a person's genitals to a child, or asking children to expose themselves.
  • Asking a child to interact sexually with someone else.
  • Online enticementi of a minor for sexual purposes.
  • Photographing a child in sexual poses.
  • Exposing a child to sexual acts (including masturbation) either in person or through digital, computer or video images.
  • Watching a child undress or use the bathroom, often without the child's knowledge (known as voyeurism or being a "Peeping Tom").

Please note that although there may not be harmful intent, even having adult pornography or sexual toys in the home where a child could come across them has been viewed by authorities as sexual abuse in some circumstances. For complete information, see our definitions of child sexual abuse.

Take care,
Stop It Now!

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Last edited on: August 24th, 2012