Defining Child Sexual Abuse

At the extreme end of the spectrum, sexual abuse includes sexual intercourse or its deviations. Yet all offences that involve sexually touching a child, as well as non-touching offenses and sexual exploitation, are just as harmful and devastating to a child’s well-being.

Touching sexual offenses include:

  • Fondling;
  • Making a child touch an adult’s sexual organs; and
  • Penetrating a child’s vagina or anus no matter how slight with a penis or any object that doesn’t have a valid medical purpose.

Non-touching sexual offenses include:

  • Engaging in indecent exposure or exhibitionism;
  • Exposing children to pornographic material;
  • Deliberately exposing a child to the act of sexual intercourse; and
  • Masturbating in front of a child.

Sexual exploitation can include:

  • Engaging a child or soliciting a child for the purposes of prostitution; and
  • Using a child to film, photograph or model pornography.

Note that the actual sexual abuse of a child is often preceded by a period of “grooming.” Child grooming involves psychological manipulation in the form of positive reinforcement and foot-in-the-door tactics, using activities that are typically legal but later lead to illegal activitie. These activities are done to gain the child's trust as well as the trust of those responsible for the child's well-being. Additionally, a trusting relationship with the family means the child's parents are less likely to believe potential accusations.

Child grooming may be used to lure minors into trafficking of children, illicit businesses such as child prostitution, or the production of child pornography.

 

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