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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.


Call 911 for any of the following:

  • The child has trouble breathing, chest pain, or a fast heartbeat.
  • The child feels like harming himself or someone else.

Seek care immediately if:

  • The child feels that he cannot cope with the abuse, or recovery from it.
  • The child has blood or foul-smelling discharge coming from his 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 the last visit.
  • You have questions or concerns about the child's condition or care.


  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you give the child more pain medicine. Ask the child's healthcare provider how to give this medicine safely.
  • Do not give aspirin to children younger than 18 years old. The child could develop Reye syndrome if he takes aspirin. Reye syndrome can cause life-threatening brain and liver damage. Check the child's medicine labels for aspirin, salicylates, or oil of wintergreen.
  • Give the child's medicine as directed. Contact the child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him if the child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs the 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 the child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with the child's healthcare provider or counselor 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 as needed. Tell the child's healthcare provider if the child has trouble sleeping.
  • Report suspected or known sexual abuse. It may be hard to report sexual abuse of children, but it is very important. Healthcare providers can help the child if he 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 from the abuse.
  • Take the child to counseling. Counseling may help the child to feel less scared, depressed, or anxious. A counselor can help him talk about how he feels.

© 2017 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.