All too often children and younger people do not understand everything that is happening to them when they are victims of sexual abuse. They do not understand that what is being done or asked of them is wrong. Children and younger people who are sexually abused are tricked and/or forced to do things of a sexual nature. They are often too scared to tell anyone that they were victims of child sexual abuse.
Child sexual abuse can happen at any time and anywhere – whether online or in person but it is never the fault of the child and it is imperative that children are made aware of this when they are subjected to this type of abuse.
- Are There Different Types of Child Sexual Abuse?
- What Are the Signs That a Child is Being Sexually Abused?
- What To Do if a Child Reveals They Are Being Sexually Abused
- What Are the Effects on a Child of Sexual Abuse?
- The Effects of Post-Traumatic Stress on a Child Who Has Been Sexually Abused
- What Children Are Most at Risk of Being Sexually Abused?
- Reporting Child Sexual Abuse
- What Support is There For a Sexually Abused Child?
- Teaching Children About Staying Safe
- How to Keep Children Safe When They Are Online
- What To Do If Your Child Is Sexually Abused By Another Child
- Finding the Right Support
- Choosing to Contact An Organisation in the Voluntary Sector
- Finding Support in the Statutory Sector For Child Sexual Abuse
- Choosing Support in the Private Sector For Child Sexual Abuse
- Further Resources
There are two kinds of sexual abuse that a child could be subjected to which are as follows:
As previously mentioned, sexual abuse can happen to child when they are online or it can occur in person. When a child is sexually abused in person (contact), the abuser has physical contact with them and it could include the following:
- Touching part of a child’s body whether the child is wearing clothes or not
- Using a part of their body or an object as a means to penetrate or rape a child
- Forcing a child to engage in sexual activities with the abuser
- Forcing a child to touch someone else or to get undressed
Contact abuse may include the following:
- Oral sex
It is not just a “penetrative” act that constitutes sexual abuse.
When a child is the victim of non-contract sexual abuse, the abuser does not “touch” them. The abuse may happen in person or it would occur online and could include the following:
- Exposing themselves or flashing
- Showing a child pornographic material
- Exposing the child to a sexual act
- Forcing a child to masturbate
- Making the child create, share or view images or videos showing child abuse
- Forcing the to make, view or distribute images or videos showing child abuse
- Making a child engage in sexual conversations and/or activities over a smartphone or online
There are certain signs you could watch out for that a child is being sexually abused. If you are aware of the signs, it can help a child talk about what is happening to them. Children who are sexually abused often do not realise that what is happening is wrong and all too often they are too frightened to tell anyone about their experiences. The signs to watch out for include the following:
- A child may avoid being left alone with a person or people they know
- They may show signs of being scared when they are around certain people or a specific person
- They know specific language or sexual behaviours that you would have thought they would not know at their age
- They experience frequent nightmares and/or wet the bed
- They self-harm
- Their eating habits change or they develop an eating disorder
- They misuse alcohol or drugs
There are also physical signs to watch out for which could be an indication that a child is being sexually abused and this includes the following:
- They are bruised
- There is discharge, bleeding, soreness and pain in the anal or genital areas
- They develop a sexually transmitted infection
Should a child be sexually abused when they are online, the signs that this may be happening could include the following:
- They spend more time than usual online or they do not spend as much time online as they used to. They may text more, play more online games or use social media more or less than usual too
- They appear distant, angry or upset after they have been online or after they have been texting
- They become secretive about who they are in contact with online or on their phones, not wanting to share who they are interacting with
- They start receiving a lot of new contacts, texts or email addresses on all of their devices whether it’s a phone, tablet or laptop
Children who experience online sexual abuse may also hint at the fact they are victims of an online sexual abuser.
If you find that a child wants to talk to you about an experience of sexual abuse they were subjected to, it is essential that you do the following:
- Make sure you listen to them carefully and that you fully understand what they are telling you
- Make sure you tell the child that they have done the right thing by telling you what is happening to them
- Make sure you tell the child that they have done anything wrong
- Make sure you tell them that you are taking what they are telling you very seriously while remaining very calm
- Do not confront the “alleged abuser”
- Make sure you let the child know what you are going to do
- Make sure you report what the child has chosen to tell you as soon as you can to the relevant authorities
The effects a child suffers having been sexually abused can be both short-term or long-term and in certain cases they can last a child’s whole lifetime. The effects on a child or younger person could be as follows:
- Suffering from depression and anxiety
- Developing eating disorders
- Suffering post-traumatic stress
- Finding it hard to cope with stress
- Suicidal tendencies and suicidal thoughts
- Developing sexually transmitted infections
- Experiencing guilt and shame
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Difficult relationships with close family, partners and friends
Children who are the victims of sexual abuse need all the support and help they can get so they can move on with their lives as much as they can.
The impact of being sexually abused as a child or being the victim of rape and sexual violence can often include emotional, physical and psychological conditions. The result of being subjected to this type of abuse whether as a boy or girl, has devastating effects on every aspect of a child’s life. It can negatively impact them as follows:
- Their minds
- Their bodies
- Their behaviours
- Their thoughts
- Their feelings and emotions
Children who are sexually abused can suffer from post-traumatic stress which can see them displaying the following symptoms:
- Angry outbursts and irritability
- Suicidal thoughts
- Alcohol and drug abuse
- Sexual problems
- Confused about sexuality
- Eating disorders
- Self-harming and self-injury
- Borderline Personality Disorder
- Dissociative Identity Disorder
- Low self-esteem
- Lack of confidence
- Sleep Problems
- Transient psychotic episodes
- Somatisation – Emotional distress experienced as physical pain
- Increased risk of developing heart disease and cancer
- Criminal behaviour
- Parenting Problems
Both girls and well as boys are at risk of being sexually abused and this includes any child with most of them being the victims of sexual abuse at the hands of somebody they know. The abuser could be a family member, a close friend or even somebody who has targeted a child and this includes teachers or coaches.
If a child is sexually abused when they are online, their abuser could be someone they know. The abuser could be a person who commits an abusive sexual act once or a person who has spent time building up a relationship with the child before committing sexual assault on them.
With this said, children with disabilities are more at risk of being the victims of sexual abuse more especially if they are not able to tell someone about their experience or because they do not comprehend what is being done to them. Abusers are known to target any child who is isolated or neglected by parents and/or carers. Families that are experiencing rough times may not be able to give their children the attention or supervision they need which puts them in harm’s way.
If a child tells you they are being sexually abused by someone, you must do the following:
- Get in touch immediately with the social care team of the child at the local council
- Call the police on 999 or 101 if you believe that a crime is being committed
- Call “Crimestoppers” which you can do anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online
If you are a parent and you discover that your child is the victim of sexual abuse, you would naturally be extremely frightened and anxious. There is a lot of help and support that you can rely on which includes the following:
- MOSAC – a charitable organisation that provides essential support and advice to non-abusing parents and carers whose children have been sexually abused
There is also a tremendous amount of support for children and younger people as well as their families who have been victims of sexual abuse which includes the following:
- Hear and Now
- In Ctrl
- Letting the Future In
- Protect and Respect
Another organisation that provides valuable support to children and younger people who have been the victims of sexual assault is Lighthouse, they make it their mission to help children and younger people recover from their traumatic experiences at the hands of abusers.
It is important that children and younger people be taught how to stay safe which can be achieved in the following ways:
- Teaching them how to stay safe when they are online to prevent sexual exploitation
- Teaching them what healthy relationships are
- Teaching children that there are adults they can trust and who they can talk to about any worries they may have
- Asking a child’s school to organise a “Speak Out Stay Safe” assembly which is free of charge and is targeted at primary school children
It is important to teach children how to stay safe when they are online or using their smartphones and other devices they may possess. One way of achieving this is to encourage the following:
- Transparency as to what your child/children are doing when they are on the internet
- Keep gaming devices and laptops that have webcams in a family room
- Use the parental controls and make sure you are up-to-date with all the apps and games that children and younger people enjoy playing
It is known that children and younger people can be sexually abused by other young people. Should this be the case, the damage can be done to both the victim and the abuser who may have developed behavioural issues because they themselves have been abused or the victims of neglect. Children who have experienced sexual abuse do not realise that it is wrong and therefore they think that behaving in this way towards other children is acceptable.
If you believe your child has or is being sexually abused and their abuser is another child, it is vitally important for the child who is causing harm to receive the support they need. The organisations listed below provide support and help to children you sexually abuse others:
- National Clinical Assessment and Treatment Service (NCATS)
- Turn the Page
If you are a younger person and you feel that your behaviour is worrying, there is help and support available for you with many organisations offering essential advice as well as support to those who feel they need it:
- Stop it now! – a free helpline that provides guidance, support and information
There are support services for all adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. However, waiting lists tend to be common whether it is in the voluntary sector or the NHS and finding the right support service can prove challenging. Some of the services focus more on sexual abuse rather than neglect, physical or emotional abuse. With this said, the fact that child sexual abuse can negatively impact a person later in their lives in distressing ways, is more recognised today than ever before. As such, trauma-informed practices are more commonplace now.
Although counselling and therapy is an essential part of recovering from child sexual abuse, you can get support in many other ways too. One of which is to learn about how the affects of your abuse can impact your brain an body. This can help you get back on the right track to recovering from your trauma.
Joining a support group is also hugely empowering because it can help you feel less alone, isolated and powerless. Doing the following can also help you through the healing process:
- Self-defence classes
- Trauma-release exercises (TRE)
- Dance classes and other complementary therapies
All of the above have proven to be highly effective methods of recovering from childhood sexual trauma.
It is worth noting that when you contact a support provider that you ask them about their policies on confidentiality. The reason being that statutory providers like the NHS are more likely to report a claim of child abuse to the police should they believe that a child or vulnerable young adult is still at risk of being subjected to abuse by their abuser/abusers without first requesting your permission to do so.
As previously mentioned, there are many charities and voluntary organisations that provide support and care for victims of childhood sexual abuse and abused children as well as vulnerable young adults. The services they provide are usually free of charge or you may be asked to pay as much as you can afford. The staff who work for these organisations have a deep understanding of the situation and the emotions that children experience when they are the victims of sexual abuse.
Although, voluntary organisations are more flexible in their approach to recovering from sexual abuse than the NHS, they rely on grant funding, as such the services they provide tend to be less consistent.
The voluntary organisations that provide support and care to victims of child sexual abuse are listed below:
- The Survivors Trust provides 130 support services for victims of rape and sexual abuse
- Rape Crisis England & Wales is a charity that provides advocacy, support, information and counselling to victims of sexual abuse and sexual violence. The service also provides women-only spaces with some providing support for survivors of male sexual violence too
- Rape Crisis Scotland provides both emotional and practical support, advocacy and information to survivors of sexual assault
- Survivors Pathway (South West England) provides an online service for people who need specialist sexual violence support who live in the South West of the country
- Nexus Northern Ireland provides support to anyone who has been affected by any form of sexual violence at any time of their lives
- Mind provides services which includes talking therapies, crisis helplines, counselling and befriending throughout the UK at its 140 independent local branches
- HAVOCA provides over the phone support or face-to-face support to people whose lives have been negatively impacted by childhood sexual abuse
- Future Pathways, Scotland provides support to victims who were sexually abused as children which includes counselling and psychological trauma support
- NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children is a charitable organisation that works hard to protect all children throughout the country and the Channel Islands
If you choose to seek support from child sexual abuse in the statutory sector, you could contact any of the following NHS Choices:
- NHS provides support to those who are in crisis but often there is a long waiting list because as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse you would not fall into the category of “crisis victim”
- Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) is more widely available through the NHS
- SARCS (Sexual Assault Referral Centres) provide emotional and practical support to those who have been sexually assaulted or raped
There are several very good counsellors and therapists you can contact if you are seeking support and help for child sexual abuse many of which operate a sliding scale of charges which in short means they charge you what you are able to pay them.
- The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP)
- UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP)
- The National Counselling Society (NCS)
- The Echo Society has counsellors with expertise in narcissistic abuse
- PODS provides a list of counsellors who support people who have suffered trauma and developed a dissociative disorder
- The Counselling Directory advertises counsellors and psychotherapists, if they are registered with an overseeing professional body
Supporting all non-abusing parents and carers whose children have been sexually abused. We provide various types of support services and information for parents, carers and professionals dealing with child sexual abuse.
Confidential emotional support to children, young adults and adults by telephone, email and post.
The helpline is available to female adult survivors of childhood rape/sexual abuse, and others can call if they have a concern about such issues.
CISters (Surviving Rape and/or Sexual Abuse)
PODS works to make recovery from dissociative disorders a reality through training, informing and supporting.
Rape Crisis England & Wales is a feminist organisation that exists to promote the needs and rights of women and girls who have experienced sexual violence, to improve services to them and to work towards the elimination of sexual violence.
Safeline is a specialised charity working to prevent sexual abuse and to support those affected in their recovery.