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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.


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 injuries, unwanted pregnancies, and can be life-threatening. The child's behavior may change, and he or she may develop other serious problems. These include alcohol or drug use, depression, and problems with self-esteem, mood, friendships, and relationships. He or she may even have thoughts of harming himself or herself, 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 to decrease pain. Watch the child for signs of pain. Do not let the child wait until his or her 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 or she 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), other infections, physical injury to an organ, or pregnancy.

  • A culture and smear exam is a sample of vaginal discharge that is tested 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 that may have resulted from the abuse.

  • An ultrasound uses sound waves to show pictures on a monitor. An ultrasound may be done of the child's abdomen or vagina to check for internal injuries.

  • A colposcopy is a procedure using a small scope and light to see the inside of the child's vagina and cervix to check for injuries.


  • 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 help with how he or she 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.

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