California Child Sexual Abuse Facts and Resources
What Is Considered Child Sexual Abuse?
Child sexual abuse is a broad term that can apply to many different forms of sexual behavior. It does not always involve touching but can include the sexual coercion or manipulation of a child by another person. This includes, but is not limited to:
• Touching of genitals or intimate body parts over or under clothing (This does not include acts which are normal caretaker responsibilities or for a valid medical purpose.)
• Exposing oneself to a minor
• Psychological pressure to engage in sexual activity
• Sexual intercourse
• Masturbating in child’s presence, or requiring the child to masturbate
• Owning, producing, or distributing child pornography;
• Sexual interaction with a child via digital forms of communication (e.g., text, phone, internet messaging)
Child sexual abuse is prevalent in the United States. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old. Tragically, only 12% of child sexual abuse is reported to the authorities. Under California and federal law, no child can consent to sexual activity with an adult.
Warning Signs of Child Sexual Abuse
It is not always easy to spot signs of child sexual abuse. Perpetrators are generally a trusted adult who hide their actions and ask the victims to keep their actions secret. If you notice that something isn’t right or that someone in the child’s life is making you feel uncomfortable, trust your gut, talk to the child, and watch for signs of abuse.
Warning signs that a teen or child may be sexually abused include:
• Regressive behaviors such as thumbsucking, tantrums, or bedwetting
• Not wanting to be left alone with certain people or afraid to be away from primary caregivers
• Sexual behavior or knowledge of sexual topics that is inappropriate for child’s age
• Spending an unusual amount of time alone
• Not talking as much as usual
• Change in mood or personality, such as increased aggression or fearfulness
• Self-harming behaviors
• Trying to avoid removing clothing to change or bathe
• Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
• Signs of trauma to the genital area
• Has headaches or stomach aches for which there doesn’t seem to be a physical cause
• Receives gifts from an unknown source
Impact of Child Sexual Abuse
Experiencing sexual abuse as a child can have a long-lasting impact on the victim, from childhood to adulthood. There are often both short and long-term consequences.
Immediate psychological consequences of child sexual abuse include:
• Anxiety, nervousness
• Withdrawal and isolation
Experiencing the trauma of sexual abuse often has a lasting impact. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) studies show that victims of child sexual abuse are:
• Four times more likely to develop symptoms of drug abuse
• Four times more likely to experience PTSD as adults
• Three times more likely to experience a major depressive episode as adults
Other issues that can extend into adulthood include nightmares, anxiety, stress, eating disorders, insomnia, or suicidal ideation.
Protecting your child from sexual abuse:
Even if your child has not been the victim of sexual abuse, there are things you can do to prevent future abuse. These lessons help children to know when something is inappropriate and gives them the power and language to speak up.
1. Teach children the names of their body parts, and that some parts of the body are private. Let children know that other people shouldn’t touch or look at them and they should not touch or look at other people’s specified body parts.
2. Let children know that they are allowed to and should say “no” to touches that make them feel uncomfortable. For example, if your child doesn’t want to hug someone at a family gathering, respect their decision to refuse. Believe your child when they show you they are uncomfortable or fearful even if they do not or cannot articulate why.
3. Talk about secrets. Let children know that they can always come to you, especially if they have been told to keep a secret. Advise them that they should come to you if they see someone touching another child in ways they are inappropriate like students sitting on a teacher’s lap. Tell them that body secrets are not okay.
4. Reassure them that they will not get in trouble. Be a safe place for your child to share information about things. Remind them that they won’t be punished for sharing information with you, especially when they tell you anything about body safety or body secrets.
5. Teach your child how to get out of scary or uncomfortable situations. Teach children early on that it’s okay to tell an adult they have to leave. Help give them the words to get out of uncomfortable situations. Tell your children that if someone wants to see or touch private parts, they can say they need to leave to go potty and find another trusted adult.
6. Tell your child that a body touch might tickle or feel good. Children can become confused by references to “good touch or bad touch,” because often these touches do not hurt or feel bad. Using the terms “secret touch” may be a more accurate description of what may happen.
7. Tell your children that these rules apply even with people they know, including other children.
8. When children are older, talk to them about sexual assault directly.
Are You a Survivor of Child Sexual Abuse?
If you were a victim of sexual abuse as a child, you have the opportunity to hold those who wronged you responsible for the experience they forced you to endure. By filing a claim against them for damages, you can seek justice for yourself and help protect others. Although the process may seem intimidating, legal action can be incredibly empowering and another path toward healing.
At Strong Advocates, we represent you through the legal process and fight for you or your child every step of the way.
Local Resources for Child Sex Abuse Survivors in Los Angeles
Childen’s Hospital Los Angeles- Audrey Hepburn CARES Center provides comprehensive medical and mental health services for suspected victims of child abuse and their families.
Peace Over Violence – headquartered in Los Angeles, this prevention center for stalking, domestic violence, sexual assault, and sexual abuse is committed to social service and change.
Child Sexual Abuse Prevention in Los Angeles – Lauren’s Kids has been serving the community since 2007, focusing on reporting laws.
RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network). Call 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) to reach the National Sexual Assault Hotline
National Sexual Violence Resource Center – offers help and training for survivors and clinicians alike.
South Asian Network, Inc. (SAN) — A community-based organization dedicated to persons of South Asian origin that offers support services for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, child sexual abuse, human trafficking, and elder abuse.
Trust Strong Advocates Sexual Abuse Team to Fight For You
If you or a loved one have endured child sexual abuse at school or other institution, call Strong Advocates at (800) 260-1495 to connect with a child sexual abuse attorney for free. We will fight with passion and ferocity to protect your rights.