Definitions of Child Sexual Abuse

Touching and Non-Touching Behaviors

If you are not exactly sure what sexual abuse is, you’re not alone. All sexual touching between an adult and a child is sexual abuse. Sexual touching between children can also be sexual abuse when there is a significant age difference (often defined as 3 or more years) between the children or if the children are very different developmentally or size-wise. Sexual abuse does not have to involve penetration, force, pain, or even touching. If an adult engages in any sexual behavior (looking, showing, or touching) with a child to meet the adult’s interest or sexual needs, it is sexual abuse.

A Gradual Process

Most often child sexual abuse is a gradual process and not a single event. By learning the early warning signs and how to effectively step in and speak up, sexual abuse can be stopped before it starts a child is harmed. Adults must take the primary responsibility for preventing child sexual abuse by addressing any concerning or questionable behavior which may pose a risk to a child’s safety.

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Our Resources

Helpful Organizations
Organization: American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children


Helpful Articles
Title:World Health Organization Definition of Child Abuse
Abstract:An expanded definition of child sexual abuse
World Health Organization
Related Files:
Title:Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect
Abstract:An expanded definition of child sexual abuse
American Academy of Pediatrics
Related Files:
Title:Understanding Child Sexual Abuse
Abstract:Understanding the Sexual Behavior of Children, Part One and Understanding the Sexual Behavior of Children, Part Two, A two-part article explaining inappropriate and harmful sexual behavior among children and youth
American Psychological Association
Related Files:
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