Child sexual abuse has been at the center of unprecedented public attention during the last decade. Most children are abused by someone they know and trust, although boys are more likely than girls to be abused outside of the family. This crime encompasses different types of sexual activity, including voyeurism, sexual dialogue, fondling, touching of the genitals, vaginal, anal, or oral rape and forcing children to participate in pornography or prostitution.
Symptoms of Child Sexual Abuse
Many sexually abused children exhibit physical, behavioral and emotional symptoms.
Some physical signs are pain or irritation to the genital area, vaginal or penile discharge and difficulty with urination.
Victims of known assailants may experience less physical trauma because such injuries might attract suspicion.
Behavior changes often precede physical symptoms as the first indicators of sexual abuse.
These signs may include nervous or aggressive behavior toward adults.
Sexual provocativeness before an appropriate age.
The use of alcohol and other drugs.
Boys are more likely than girls to act out in aggressive and antisocial ways as a result of abuse.
Children may resist reporting abuse because they are afraid of angering the offender, blame themselves or feel guilty and ashamed. Children are more likely to reveal abuse when talking to someone who appears to "already know" and is not judgmental, critical or threatening.
Consequences of Child Sexual Abuse
Range from chronic depression to low self-esteem to sexual dysfunction to multiple personalities. A fifth of all victims develop serious long-term psychological problems if not treated.