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Definition of child sexual abuse

There is no standard definition of 'child sexual abuse'. The government within each country defines 'child sexual abuse' within its child protection guidelines. 

England

"Involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, not necessarily involving a high level of violence, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening."

"The activities may involve physical contact, including assault by penetration (for example, rape or oral sex) or non-penetrative acts such as masturbation, kissing, rubbing and touching outside of clothing. They may also include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, sexual images, watching sexual activities, encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways, or grooming a child in preparation for abuse (including via the internet)."

"Sexual abuse is not solely perpetrated by adult males. Women can also commit acts of sexual abuse, as can other children."

(HM Government, 2015)

 

Scotland

"Sexual abuse is any act that involves the child in any activity for the sexual gratification of another person, whether or not it is claimed that the child either consented or assented.

"Sexual abuse involves forcing or enticing a child to take part in sexual activities, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact, including penetrative or non-penetrative acts. They may include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, pornographic material or in watching sexual activities, using sexual language towards a child or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways."

(Scottish Government, 2010)

 

Wales

"Forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening, including:

  • physical contact, including penetrative or non-penetrative acts;
  • non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, pornographic material or watching sexual activities;
  • or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways."

(Welsh Assembly Government, 2006)

 

Northern Ireland

"Sexual abuse involves forcing or enticing a child to take part in sexual activities”.

"The activities may involve physical contact, including penetrative or non-penetrative acts. They may include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or the production of, pornographic material or watching sexual activities, or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways.

"Sexual activity involving a child who is capable of giving informed consent on the matter, while illegal, may not necessarily constitute sexual abuse as defined for the purposes of this guide. One example, which would fall into this category, is a sexual relationship between a 16 year old girl and her 18 year old boyfriend. The decision to initiate child protection action in such cases is a matter for professional judgment and each case should be considered individually. The criminal aspects of the case will, of course, be dealt with by the police."

(Department of Heath Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS), 2003)

 

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