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Sexual abuse is when a child is enticed or forced to take part in sexual activities. This kind of abuse does not always involve a high level of violence and the child may or may not be aware of what is happening.

The abuse may be committed by adult men and women, or by other children.

Examples of sexual abuse are:

  • Causing or inciting a child to watch or engage in sexual activities
  • Encouraging a child to behave in sexually inappropriate ways
  • Involving a child in looking at sexual images or videos
  • Involving a child in the production of sexual images or videos
  • Grooming a child in preparation for abuse (including via the internet)

Signs and symptoms of sexual abuse in children can include:

  • Extreme reactions such as depression, self-mutilation, suicide attempts, running away, overdoses or anorexia
  • Personality changes such as becoming insecure or clinging
  • Being isolated or withdrawn
  • Medical problems such as chronic itching, pain in the genitals or venereal diseases