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Sexual Abuse of a Child

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Feb 4, 2024.

What is 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 should I do if I think my child has been sexually 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 can I expect when I take my child to the healthcare provider's office or 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.

How can I help my child?

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

When should I call my child's doctor?

Care Agreement

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 healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. 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.

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