Information About Childhood Sexual Abuse

What is child sexual abuse?

A straight forward dictionary definition states that sexual abuse is the forcing of unwanted sexual activity by one person on another, by the use of threats or coercion. If the victim is under the age of 18, it's child sexual abuse.

According to the National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC), child sexual abuse is a crime which "encompasses different types of sexual activity, including voyeurism, sexual dialogue, fondling, touching of the genitals, vaginal, anal, or oral rape and forcing children to participate in pornography or prostitution."


I believe, in general, our society is still very unaware of the number of children suffering from childhood sexual abuse. What is truly disturbing is that they are most often abused by somebody close to them - somebody they (and perhaps their parents) know and trust.

It may not be possible to stop it from happening, but if society addresses the issue through education and awareness, we can decrease the chance of it happening, and help the victims to become strong survivors.


While every case is somewhat unique, there are still some common symptoms (behavioural changes) parents and friends can watch for that may indicate sexual abuse:

  • Sudden fear of a person or place
  • If a child is suddenly talking, drawing or writing about sexual acts
  • Sudden, unexplained changes in how the child behaves or acts
  • Sudden awareness of genitals
  • Attempting to get other children to perform sexual acts
  • Discomfort or soreness in the genital area
  • Discomfort when asked if they have been touched
  • Discomfort during a doctor examination
  • If the child is suddenly not sleeping well, or having disturbing nightmares they won't talk about


Many of the statistics are staggering and speak more loudly than any words. The statistics also illustrate the destruction of sexual abuse and the cycle it can take if the victims aren't protected and provided with the opportunity to heal.


Aside from the emotional costs the victims pay for the rest of their lives, an estimated annual cost of child sexual abuse in Canada exceeds $3.6 billion CAD according to 2003 figures. (Source: Hankivsky, O. (2003, forthcoming). Preliminary cost estimates of child sexual abuse Canada. Ottawa, ON: Health Canada.)

Dollar costs may include:

  • judicial
  • social services
  • education
  • health
  • employment
  • personal


Last Updated July 26, 2013