Childhood sexual abuse is any kind of sexual activity which may include touching or non-touching activities involving a child under the age of 18.   It is wrong and it is illegal.  Sexual abuse can have lasting effects on a child's well being and quality of life and its essential that they get help - no matter your child's age or how long ago the molestation took place.

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What Is Childhood Sexual Abuse?

Sadly sexual abuse affects victims of all ages and yes, both boys and girls can be sexually abused.  Sexual abuse is any kind of sexual activity and can include touching and non-touching activities, including; 

     -  Inappropriate touching of your child's body for sexual pleasure.
     -  Rape or attempted rape.
     -  Vaginal, anal or oral penetration.
     -  Removal of clothing for someone's personal pleasure.
     -  Deliberately exposing an adult's genitals to a child.
     -  Photographing a child in the nude or in sexual poses.
     -  Encouraging a child to watch or hear sexual acts or pornography.
     -   Inappropriately watching a child undress, use the bathroom or taking a bath.
     -  Any type of sexual conduct that is damaging to a child's physical, emotional or mental state.

Child abuse can be a single event or it can continue to occur over a long period.  In the majority of cases, the abuser is someone known to the child and can include a person of trust (ie - a family member, babysitter, coach, teacher, etc).

How do I know that my child has been sexually abused?

Not every child will be able to tell somebody about what happened to them.  This is normal.  They may be feel afraid, ashamed, confused or all of the above.  The abuser may have threatened them with violence either to them or someone they love if they tell.  They are often told that this will be "our little secret" or that it is the child's fault and many abusers will convince the child that that the abuse is acceptable.  The truth is - nothing about child abuse is acceptable and we all need to do our part to protect our children and be the voice that they may find difficult to find.

If you suspect your child is being sexually abused or may have been sexually abused in the past, you can look for these possible warning signs:

-  Changes in behavior including depression, fearfulness, withdrawal, anxiety, crying without any obvious provocation.
-  Unexplained bruising, cuts, bleeding etc particularly in the genital region.
-  Psychosomatic symptoms (stomach aches, headaches, etc).
-  Pain, itching and burning in the genital area.
-  Yeast or urinary infections or frequent urination or pain while urinating.
-  Symptoms of a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
-  Loss of appetite or other eating problems.  Unexplained changes in weight.
- Night terrors / nightmares, night sweats with screaming and/or shaking.
-  Sudden reluctance to be alone with a certain person(s).
-  Over-protectiveness of siblings or other family members and friends.
-  Poor hygiene or conversely - excessive cleaning/bathing.
-  Regression to infantile behavior including thumb sucking, bedwetting, etc.
-  Unusual interest or knowledge of sexually related matters.
-  Inappropriate expression of affection.
-  Problems at school (absences, drop in grades, etc).
-  Running away from home.
-  Use of alcohol and drugs, addictions.
-  Self-mutilation (cutting, etc). 
-  Suicidal thoughts or attempts.

If you suspect your child has been sexually abused, we encourage you to talk to your child in a location they feel comfortable with and not any where near the potential abuser.  Talk to your child in a caring and sensitive manner.  You may begin the conversation by saying that the child has done nothing wrong and that they are not in trouble and that you are just concerned about how they are.  As a parent who suspects their child has been sexually molested, its very easy to be very emotional or angry.  When you talk to your child, its very important that you stay calm and loving and extremely understanding to everything they say.

If you discover that your child has been sexually abused, we re-iterate that the child receives medical and psychological attention as soon as possible.  Depending on where you live, there are many options to report the crime.  Quite often, once the abuse is reported to a doctor or hospital, an official investigation into the abuse will begin.  

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Childhood Sexual Abuse Warning Signs