What is child sexual abuse?

Child sexual abuse usually involves sexual abuse by a person in a position of power, known to the child, who exploits the child’s trust in them. The child is often manipulated in a way that leaves them feeling responsible and believing that they have to keep the experience secret or something bad will happen.

Child sexual abuse includes a wide range of sexual behaviours that take place between a child and an older or more powerful person. Behaviours that are sexually abusive usually involve bodily contact. However, behaviours may be sexually abusive even if they do not involve contact, for example – being made to watch sexual acts or being exploited to create pornographic material.

Who does child sexual abuse happen to?

Sexual abuse happens to girls and boys. Children can be sexually abused by men or women, older children (including brothers and sisters) and by groups of people including religious groups and peers. It may be a single incident or it may go on for many years.

Why does child sexual abuse remain hidden?

Many adults have gone through life without telling anyone about what happened to them. They may have been threatened with awful consequences if they did tell. They may not have known that what was happening was wrong and was harmful to them. They may have believed that the adults around them needed protecting from such knowledge, or been sure that they would be blamed or accused of lying. In many cases children do try to tell, verbally or otherwise, but no one hears them or believes them.

What are the effects of child sexual abuse?

The legacy of child sexual abuse can be devastating. Although the experience was long ago it may still be difficult to cope with. Many people in psychiatric services and prisons have been sexually abused as children. Many people with drug and alcohol dependencies, eating disorders or self-harming behaviours have been sexually abused as children. Many more people who outwardly live successful lives, as very independent people, continue to suffer in silence from the pain and isolation of being sexually abused as children.

Survive provides a place where people can access support, reduce isolation and begin to heal from the abuse they suffered.