Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse, also referred to as molestation, is the forcing of undesired sexual behavior by one person upon another. When that force is immediate, of short duration, or infrequent, it is called sexual assault. The offender is referred to as a sexual abuser or (often pejoratively) molester.[1] The term also covers any behavior by any adult towards a child to stimulate either the adult or child sexually. When the victim is younger than the age of consent, it is referred to as child sexual abuse.


Types of sexual abuse

There are many types of sexual abuse, including:

  • Non-consensual, forced physical sexual behavior (rape and sexual assault).
  • Unwanted touching, either of a child or an adult.
  • Sexual kissing, fondling, exposure of genitalia, and voyeurism, exhibitionism and up to sexual assault.
  • Exposing a child to pornography.
  • Saying sexually suggestive statements towards a child (child molestation).
  • Also applies to non-consensual verbal sexual demands towards an adult.
  • The use of a position of trust to compel otherwise unwanted sexual activity without physical force (or can lead to attempted rape or sexual assault).
  • Incest (see also sexual deviancy).
  • Certain forms of sexual harassment.

Spousal sexual abuse

Spousal sexual abuse is a form of domestic violence. When the abuse involves forced sex, it may constitute rape upon the other spouse, depending on the jurisdiction, and may also constitute an assault.

Positions of power

Sexual misconduct can occur where one person uses a position of authority to compel another person to engage in an otherwise unwanted sexual activity. For example, sexual harassment in the workplace might involve an employee being coerced into a sexual situation out of fear of being dismissed. Sexual harassment in education might involve a student submitting to the sexual advances of a person in authority in fear of being punished, for example by being given a failing grade.

Several sexual abuse scandals have involved abuse of religious authority and often cover-up among non-abusers, including cases in the Southern Baptist religion,[2] Catholic Church, Episcopalian religion,[3] Islam,[citation needed] Jehovah's Witnesses, Lutheran church,[4] Methodist Church,[5] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,[6] the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Orthodox Judaism,[7] and various cults.

Child sexual abuse

Leave me alone, dirty cuckold, 1905, by Martin van Maële

Child sexual abuse is a form of child abuse in which a child is abused for the sexual gratification of an adult or older adolescent.[8][9] In addition to direct sexual contact, child sexual abuse also occurs when an adult indecently exposes their genitalia to a child, asks or pressures a child to engage in sexual activities, displays pornography to a child, or uses a child to produce child pornography.[8][10][11]

Effects of child sexual abuse include guilt and self-blame, flashbacks, nightmares, insomnia, fear of things associated with the abuse (including objects, smells, places, doctor's visits, etc.), self-esteem issues, sexual dysfunction, chronic pain, addiction, self-injury, suicidal ideation, somatic complaints, depression,[12] post-traumatic stress disorder,[13] anxiety,[14] other mental illnesses (including borderline personality disorder)[15] propensity to re-victimization in adulthood,[16] and physical injury to the child, among other problems.[17] Victims of child sex abuse are over six times more likely to attempt suicide[18] and eight times more likely to repeatedly attempt suicide.[18] The abusers are also more likely to commit suicide. Much of the harm caused to victims becomes apparent years after the abuse happens.

Sexual abuse by a family member is a form of incest, and results in more serious and long-term psychological trauma, especially in the case of parental incest.[19]

Approximately 15% to 25% of women and 5% to 15% of men were sexually abused when they were children.[20][21][22][23][24] Most sexual abuse offenders are acquainted with their victims; approximately 30% are relatives of the child, most often fathers, uncles or cousins; around 60% are other acquaintances such as friends of the family, babysitters, or neighbors; strangers are the offenders in approximately 10% of child sexual abuse cases. Most child sexual abuse is committed by men; women commit approximately 14% of offenses reported against boys and 6% of offenses reported against girls.[20] Most offenders who abuse pre-pubescent children are pedophiles;[25][26] however, a small percentage do not meet the diagnostic criteria for pedophilia.[27]

Sexual abuse of people with developmental disabilities

People with developmental disabilities are often victims of sexual abuse. According to research, people with disabilities are at a greater risk for victimization of sexual assault or sexual abuse because of lack of understanding (Sobsey & Varnhagen, 1989). The rate of sexual abuse happening to people with disabilities is shocking, yet most of these cases will go unnoticed.

Sexual abuse and minorities

Sexual abuse is a big issue in some minority communities. In 2007, a number of Hispanic victims were included in the settlement of a massive sexual abuse case involving the Los Angeles archdiocese of the Catholic Church.[28] To address the issue of sexual abuse in the African-American community, the prestigious Leeway Foundation[29] sponsored a grant to develop,[30] a national online support group and resource center for African-American sexual abuse survivors. The non-profit group was founded in 2008 by Sylvia Coleman, an African-American sexual abuse survivor and national sexual abuse prevention expert.


The term survivor is sometimes used for a living victim, even of usually non-fatal harm, to honor and empower the strength of an individual to heal, in particular a living victim of sexual abuse or assault.[31] For example, there are the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests and The Survivors Trust.

See also


  1. ^ "Peer commentaries on Green (2002) and Schmidt (2002)". Archives of Sexual Behavior 31. 2002. "Child molester is a pejorative term applied to both the pedophile and incest offender." 
  2. ^ Stop Baptist Predators
  3. ^ Episcopalian Ministers
  4. ^ The LutheranLutheran abuse
  5. ^ Methodist abuse
  6. ^ Anderson, Lavina (1995). Case Reports of the Mormon Alliance Volume 1. ISBN 0108788350. 
  7. ^ Abuse Scandal Plagues Hasidic Jews In Brooklyn by Barbara Bradley Hagerty. All Things Considered, National Public Radio. 2 February 2009.
  8. ^ a b "Child Sexual Abuse". Medline Plus. U.S. National Library of Medicine,. 2008-04-02. 
  9. ^ Committee on Professional Practice and Standards (COPPS), Board of Professional Affairs (BPA), American Psychological Association (APA); Catherine Acuff, Ph.D.; Steven Bisbing, Ph.D.; Michael Gottlieb, Ph.D.; Lisa Grossman, Ph.D.; Jody Porter, Ph.D.; Richard Reichbart, Ph.D.; Steven Sparta, Ph.D.; and C. Eugene Walker, Ph.D (August 1999). "Guidelines for Psychological Evaluations in Child Protection Matters". American Psychologist 54 (8): 586–593. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.54.8.586. PMID 10453704. Retrieved 2008-05-07. Lay summary – APA PsycNET (2008-05-07). "Abuse, sexual (child): generally defined as contacts between a child and an adult or other person significantly older or in a position of power or control over the child, where the child is being used for sexual stimulation of the adult or other person." 
  10. ^ Martin, J.; Anderson, J.; Romans, S.; Mullen, P; O'Shea, M (1993). "Asking about child sexual abuse: methodological implications of a two-stage survey". Child Abuse and Neglect 17 (3): 383–392. doi:10.1016/0145-2134(93)90061-9. PMID 8330225. 
  11. ^ Child sexual abuse definition from the NSPCC
  12. ^ Roosa M.W., Reinholtz C., Angelini P.J. (1999). "The relation of child sexual abuse and depression in young women: comparisons across four ethnic groups". Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 27 (1): 65–76. PMID 10197407. 
  13. ^ Widom C.S. (1999). "Post-traumatic stress disorder in abused and neglected children grown up," American Journal of Psychiatry; 156(8):1223-1229.
  14. ^ Levitan, R. D., N. A. Rector, Sheldon, T., & Goering, P. (2003). "Childhood adversities associated with major depression and/or anxiety disorders in a community sample of Ontario: Issues of co-morbidity and specificity," Depression & Anxiety; 17, 34-42.
  15. ^
  16. ^ Messman-Moore, Terri L.; Long, Patricia J. (2000). "Child Sexual Abuse and Revictimization in the Form of Adult Sexual Abuse, Adult Physical Abuse, and Adult Psychological Maltreatment". 15 Journal of Interpersonal Violence 489: 2000. doi:10.1177/088626000015005003. 
  17. ^ Dinwiddie S, Heath AC, Dunne MP, Bucholz KK, Madden PA, Slutske WS, Bierut LJ, Statham DB et al. (2000). "Early sexual abuse and lifetime psychopathology: a co-twin-control study". Psychological Medicine 30 (1): 41–52. doi:10.1017/S0033291799001373. PMID 10722174. 
  18. ^ a b
  19. ^ Courtois, Christine A. (1988). Healing the Incest Wound: Adult Survivors in Therapy. W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 208. ISBN 0393313565. 
  20. ^ a b Julia Whealin, Ph.D. (2007-05-22). "Child Sexual Abuse". National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, US Department of Veterans Affairs. 
  21. ^ David Finkelhor (summer/fall 1994). "Current Information on the Scope and Nature of Child Sexual Abuse" (PDF). The Future of Children (1994) 4(2): 31-53. 
  22. ^ Crimes against Children Research Center
  23. ^ Family Research Laboratory
  24. ^ Kevin M. Gorey and Donald R. Leslie (1997). "The prevalence of child sexual abuse: Integrative review adjustment for potential response and measurement biases". Child Abuse & Neglect (Elsevier Science Ltd.) 21 (4, April 1997): 391–398. doi:10.1016/S0145-2134(96)00180-9. PMID 9134267. 
  25. ^ Hall, MD, Ryan C.; Richard C. W. Hall, MD, PA. (2007). "A Profile of Pedophilia: Definition, Characteristics of Offenders, Recidivism, Treatment Outcomes, and Forensic Issues" (PDF). Mayo Clin Proc (Mayo Foundation for medical education and research) 82:457-471 2007 (4): 457–71. doi:10.4065/82.4.457. PMID 17418075. 
  26. ^ Ames, A.; Houston, D. A. (1990). "Legal, social, and biological definitions of pedophilia". Archives of Sexual Behavior 19 (4): 333–342. doi:10.1007/BF01541928. PMID 2205170. 
  27. ^ Laws, Dr. Richard; William T. O'Donohue (1997). "H. E.Barbaree, M. C.Seto". Sexual Deviance: Theory, Assessment, and Treatment. Guilford Press. pp. 175–193. ISBN 1572302410. 
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^

Further reading

  • Sorenson, Susan B. (1997). Violence and Sexual Abuse at Home: Current Issues in Spousal Battering and Child Maltreatment, New York: Haworth Press. ISBN 1-56024-681-2.
  • Leigh Ann Reynolds. "People with Mental Retardation & Sexual Abuse. The Arc Q & A", Arc National Headquarters, 1997
  • Baladerian, N. (1991). "Sexual abuse of people with developmental disabilities". Sexuality and Disability 9 (4): 323–335. doi:10.1007/BF01102020. 
  • Sobsey, D.(1994). Violence and Abuse in the Lives of People With Disabilities: The End of Silent Acceptance? Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co. ISBN 978-1-55766-148-7
  • Sobsey D. and Varnhagen, C.(1989). "Sexual abuse and exploitation of people with disabilities: Toward Prevention and Treatment". In M. Csapo and L. Gougen (Eds) Special Education Across Canada (pp. 199–218). Vancouver Centre for Human Developmental Research
  • Valenti-Hien, D. and Schwartz, L.(1995). "The sexual abuse interview for those with developmental disabilities". James Stanfield Company, Santa Barbara: California.
  • White-Davis, Donna Lovers in the Time of Plague copyright 2009

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • sexual abuse — sex·u·al abuse / sek shə wəl , shwəl / n 1 a: the infliction of sexual contact upon a person by forcible compulsion b: the engaging in sexual contact with a person who is below a specified age or who is incapable of giving consent because of age… …   Law dictionary

  • sexual abuse — N UNCOUNT If a child or other person suffers sexual abuse, someone forces them to take part in sexual activity with them, often regularly over a period of time …   English dictionary

  • sexual abuse — sexual a buse noun uncount 1. ) the offensive or violent sexual behavior of someone toward a person who is not able to prevent it 2. ) any sexual behavior by an adult toward a child …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • Sexual abuse scandal in Cloyne diocese — The sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cloyne is officially elaborated as the Commission of Investigation, Dublin Archdiocese, Catholic Diocese of Cloyne . It has examined how allegations of sexual abuse of children in the… …   Wikipedia

  • sexual abuse and hallucinations —    see child sexual abuse and hallucinations (childhood trauma and hallucinations) …   Dictionary of Hallucinations

  • sexual abuse — see child abuse, paedophilia * * * any act of a sexual nature performed in a criminal manner, as with a child or with a nonconsenting adult, including rape, incest, sodomy, oral copulation, and penetration of genital or anal opening with a… …   Medical dictionary

  • sexual abuse — rape, sexual assault, or sexual molestation. Also called sex abuse. * * * …   Universalium

  • sexual abuse — noun a statutory offense that provides that it is a crime to knowingly cause another person to engage in an unwanted sexual act by force or threat most states have replaced the common law definition of rape with statutes defining sexual assault • …   Useful english dictionary

  • sexual abuse — UK / US noun [uncountable] 1) the offensive or violent sexual behaviour of someone towards a person who is not able to prevent it 2) any sexual behaviour by an adult towards a child …   English dictionary

  • sexual abuse — see child abuse, paedophilia …   The new mediacal dictionary

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