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Please be aware that the following material contains information that you may find distressing. It is important to ensure you are in a place that feels safe to you before reading and that you feel able to access support should you need it, including our helpline.

What is Childhood Sexual Abuse?


It’s now beginning to be acknowledged that Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA) happens a lot more frequently than most people believe, or ever wanted to believe.


CSA can include the following:


  • being cuddled or kissed in a way that left you feeling uncomfortable;

  • being bathed in a way that left you feeling uncomfortable;

  • having to look at other people’s genitals;

  • having to touch other people’s genitals;

  • having your own breasts or genitals touched;

  • having to pose for photographs of a sexual nature;

  • being shown sexual films and/or having to listen to sexual talk;

  • having your vagina or anus penetrated by a penis, finger or object;

  • being forced to perform oral sex, or to have it performed on you.


When determining whether the actions of an adult or older child can be defined as sexual abuse, it’s necessary to understand the intention and motivation behind the behaviour – watching a child in the bath isn’t necessarily sexually orientated or abusive but if an adult becomes sexually aroused then this is child abuse. Sexual abuse has nothing to do with ‘sex play’ between young children, which can often be indulged in quite normally by same age children as part of their learning experience. Sexual abuse involves an abuse of power – the abuser being an adult, or sometimes, an older child. Sexual gratification at contact or watching a child is sexual abuse – a total abuse of trust.






Find details of local Rape Crisis helplines and services near you.

Freephone 0808 802 9999

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