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Sexual Abuse of a Child


Sexual abuse of a child

is involving a child in sexual activities that he or she does not understand. Sexual abuse of a child can be inappropriate touching or kissing. It can also be unwanted sexual contact (sexual assault). It can even be the threat of sexual contact. The child may be abused by an adult or another child. With sexual abuse, the child is not prepared developmentally and is not able to give informed consent.

What to do if you think your child has been abused:

If you think your child has been sexually abused, do not ask your child questions over and over again. Your child may be too embarrassed to talk to you about what happened. Take him or her to the healthcare provider's office or emergency department.

What to expect in the healthcare provider's office or the emergency department:

Healthcare providers will explain how they will help your child. Your consent will be needed. Healthcare providers will want to talk with your child without you in the room. This is so healthcare providers can gain your child's trust. An exam and tests may also be done. Your child's healthcare provider may suggest your child see a mental health specialist. It is the duty of healthcare providers to report any known or suspected sexual abuse to police. Your child may need to be admitted to the hospital.

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • Your child feels like harming himself or herself, or someone else.

Call your child's doctor if:

  • Your child is sad or depressed most of the time, or frightened of other people.
  • Your child has new signs and symptoms since the last visit.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.


Your child may be given the following:

  • Prevention medicines are given to prevent pregnancy, or viral or sexually transmitted infections.
  • 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. Contact your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him or her 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.

Help your child:

  • Listen if your child wants to talk. Do not judge or ask a lot of questions. It is okay if your child does not want to talk. Your child may be too embarrassed.
  • Make your child feel secure. Tell him or her that the incident was not his or her fault. Tell your child that he or she is a good person.
  • Take your child to appointments. Your child will be referred to mental health provider (counselor). It is important that your child continues to go to appointments with the counselor.

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider and counselor as directed:

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

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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 Sexual Abuse of a Child (Ambulatory Care)

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.