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Signs of child sexual abuse

Child sexual abuse is when an adult, a stronger child or a teenager involves a child in sexual activity.

Sexual abuse can be physical, verbal or emotional, including:

  • kissing, holding or fondling a child in a sexual way
  • exposing genitals to a child
  • talking in a sexual way that’s not appropriate for the child’s age
  • making obscene phone calls, text messages or remarks
  • persistently intruding on a child’s privacy
  • penetrating a child’s vagina or anus by penis, finger or other object
  • having sex with a child under 16 years of age
  • showing pornographic films, magazines or photographs to a child
  • having a child pose or behave in a sexual way
  • forcing a child or young person to watch a sexual act
  • forcing a child or young person to have sex with another child
  • oral sex
  • rape
  • incest
  • child prostitution.

In addition to the signs of child abuse outlined above, children who’ve been sexually abused may also:

  • know more about sexual activities than other children their age
  • play in a sexual way
  • masturbate more than what’s normal for their age and stage of development
  • refuse to undress for activities or often wearing layers of clothing
  • have bruising, bleeding, swelling, tears or cuts on their genitals or anus
  • have unusual vaginal odour or discharge
  • have itching or pain in the genital area, difficulty going to the toilet, walking or sitting
  • have a sexually transmitted disease, especially in a young child
  • have torn, stained or bloody clothing, especially underwear
  • be afraid of being alone with a particular person
  • be frequently depressed, feel suicidal or attempt suicide
  • create stories, poems or artwork about abuse.

If a child shows any of these signs, you may need to act to keep them safe.