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Child Maltreatment - Sexual Abuse


Sexual abuse of a child occurs when someone has sexual contact with anyone younger than 18 years old. It includes kissing that is not appropriate, showing genitals to the child, fondling the child's genitals, showing sexual materials, or using force to have sex. Sexual exploitation, which includes child prostitution and pornography, is also sexual abuse. Parents, guardians, foster parents, relatives, or someone who cares for the child may be responsible for sexual abuse.


Call 911 for any the following:

  • The child has trouble breathing, chest pain, or a fast heartbeat.

  • The child feels like hurting himself or herself, or someone else.

Seek care immediately if:

  • The child feels that he or she cannot cope with the abuse, or recovery from it.

  • The child has blood or foul-smelling discharge coming from his or her genital area.

  • The child has problems sleeping, urinating, or having bowel movements.

Contact the child's healthcare provider if:

  • The child is sad or depressed most of the time, or frightened of other people.

  • The child has new signs and symptoms since his last visit.

  • You have questions or concerns about the child's condition or care.


  • Medicines may be given to decrease the child's pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you give the child more pain medicine.

  • Do not give aspirin to children under 18 years of age. Your child could develop Reye syndrome if he takes aspirin. Reye syndrome can cause life-threatening brain and liver damage. Check your child's medicine labels for aspirin, salicylates, or oil of wintergreen.

  • Give your child's medicine as directed. Call your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with the child's healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your child's visits.

Wound care:

Ask the child's healthcare provider for information about how to take care of the child's wounds.

Care for a child victim of sexual abuse:

  • Let the child rest if he or she needs to. Tell the child's healthcare provider if the child has trouble sleeping.

  • Report sexual abuse. Healthcare providers can help the child if he or she is a victim of sexual abuse. Healthcare providers are required by law to report sexual abuse. A state or county investigator may need to be involved to assess child safety. The child may need to leave a current living situation to protect him or her from the abuse.

  • Take the child for counseling. Counseling may help the child to feel less scared, depressed, or anxious. The child's healthcare provider may suggest that the child see a counselor to talk about how he or she feels.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Child Maltreatment - Sexual Abuse (Discharge Care)