Skip to Content

Child Maltreatment - Sexual Abuse


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


You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child.


If sexual abuse is not treated, the child may develop serious health and mental problems. Sexual abuse may lead to unwanted pregnancies. The child's behavior may change. He may develop other serious problems. These include alcohol or drug use, depression, and problems with self-esteem, mood, friendships, and relationships. He may have thoughts of harming himself or others.


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that your child may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your child's medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done to your child. Make sure all of your questions are answered.


At first, the child may need to rest and get plenty of sleep. Call healthcare providers right away if the child has trouble breathing or chest pain.


  • Antibiotics may be given to help prevent or treat an infection.

  • Pain medicine may be given. Do not let the child wait until his pain is severe before you ask for more pain medicine. Tell healthcare providers if you think the child's pain continues or gets worse.

  • A tetanus shot prevents tetanus, and may be given if the child has an open wound. The child should have a tetanus shot if he has not had one in the past 5 to 10 years. The child's arm may get red, swollen, and sore from this shot.


  • Blood and urine tests may show if the child has a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or other infections. The tests may also show physical injury to an organ. A female child may be tested for pregnancy.

  • A culture and smear exam is used to test a sample of a female's vaginal discharge for STIs.

  • Forensic tests may be done to check hair strands and samples of stains or discharge from the skin, clothing, a blanket, or the scene of the abuse.

  • A pelvic or rectal exam may show any injuries from the abuse.

  • Ultrasound pictures may be used to check the child's abdomen or vagina for internal injuries.

  • A colposcopy is a procedure used to see inside a female child's vagina and cervix to check for injuries. A small scope and light is used during this test.


  • Counseling may help the child to feel less scared, depressed, or anxious. A counselor can help him talk about how he feels.

  • Surgery may be needed to treat injuries, such as a wound in the genital area.

© 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.