Child sexual abuse encapsulates ANY sexual activity between a child/adolescent and an adult, with or without physical touch.

Please note: If you are a survivor of CSA, you may find some of the information triggering.

About child sexual abuse

Child sexual abuse usually involves sexual abuse by a person in a position of power, known to the child, who exploits the child’s trust in them. The child is often manipulated in a way that leaves them feeling responsible and believing that they have to keep what happened secret or something bad will happen. Child sexual abuse includes a wide range of sexual behaviours that take place between a child and an older or more powerful person. Behaviours that are sexually abusive usually involve bodily contact. However, behaviours may be sexually abusive even if they do not involve contact, for example – being made to watch sexual acts or being exploited to create pornographic material.


Who does child sexual abuse happen to?

Sexual abuse happens to girls and boys. Children can be sexually abused by men or women, older children (including brothers and sisters) and by groups of people including religious groups and peers. It may be a single incident or a number of incidents over a number of years.


Why does child sexual abuse remain hidden?

Many adults have gone through life without telling anyone about what happened to them. They may have been threatened with awful consequences if they did tell. They may not have known that what was happening was wrong and was harmful to them. They may have believed that the adults around them needed protecting from such knowledge, or been afraid that they would be blamed for what happened or accused of lying. In many cases children do try to tell, verbally or otherwise, but, very often, no one hears them or believes them.


What are the effects of child sexual abuse?

The impact of child sexual abuse can be long-term and sometimes lifelong. Although the sexual abuse happened a long time ago in the past, it may remain difficult for survivors to cope in the present. Many people with drug and alcohol dependencies, eating disorders or self-harming behaviours and those in mental health services and prisons have been sexually abused as children. Many more people, who outwardly live successful lives, may continue to feel the pain and isolation of sexual trauma – the term we use to describe the long-term effects of sexual abuse.


I was seven when I went to visit a friend of my parents. He sexually abused me before offering me some of his wife’s jewellery.

He then frightened me by saying I would be in real trouble if anyone found out.

Back to top

Sign up for our e-newsletter to receive regular updates on how we are helping survivors of sexual trauma rebuild their lives, relationships and reach their potential.