Blending Perspectives and Building Common Ground. Sexual Abuse


Sexual abuse includes a wide variety of behaviors, including fondling a child's genitals, intercourse, rape, sodomy, exhibitionism, and commercial exploitation through prostitution or the production of pornographic materials.  According to the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA, section 111(4)), "the term 'sexual abuse' includes:  (A) the employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of any child to engage in, or assist any other person to engage in, any sexually explicit conduct or simulation of such conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct; or (B) the rape, and in cases of caretaker or inter-familial relationships, statutory rape, molestation, prostitution, or other form of sexual exploitation of children, or incest with children."  Most State laws distinguish between sexual abuse and sexual assault.  To be considered sexual abuse, these acts have to be committed by a person responsible for the care of the child (for example, a parent, baby-sitter, day care provider, or other person responsible for a child).  Sexual assault is usually defined as sexual acts committed by a person who is not responsible for the care of the child.

Sexual abuse can involve varying degrees of violence and emotional trauma.  The most commonly reported cases involve incest (sexual abuse occurring among nuclear family members), which most often occurs between father or stepfather and daughter.  However, mother-son, father-son, mother-daughter, and brother-sister incest also occurs.  Sexual abuse may also be committed by other relatives such as aunts, uncles, grandfathers, grandmothers, and cousins.