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Information for Parents, Friends, Carers and Professionals

What is Sexual Abuse?

Sexual abuse is when a child/young person under the age of 18 is forced or coerced into participating in sexual activities. Sexual abuse can involve direct contact or no contact at all. Examples of sexual abuse are:

  • Sexual touching of a child’s body (clothed or unclothed) or a child forced to touch another person’s body
  • Creating, distributing, or viewing child abuse images
  • Showing or forcing a child to watch or hear pornography/sexual acts
  • Forcing or persuading a child to perform sexual acts online
  • Flashing and grooming

Rape is when a child/young person under the age of 18 is forced into participating in sex. This is when a child’s vagina, anus or mouth is penetrated by another body part or object.

Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) is where a child under the age of 18 is forced or coerced into participating in sexual activities in exchange of something such as gifts, alcohol, food, money, or affection. CSE can often look like normal relationships or friendships however there is often a power imbalance in favour of the perpetrator. CSE can happen in person and/or online, involve one or multiple perpetrators and happen once or many times. Examples of CSE include:

  • A child being paid to perform a sexual act in exchange of money – the young person is being exploited for money
  • A child being given cigarettes and alcohol for having sex with someone – the young person is being exploited for goods
  • A child has sent a naked picture to someone and they have sent it on without their consent – the young person is being exploited for affection, acceptance, popularity etc.
  • A child performs a sexual act to clear someone else’s debt – the young person is being exploited for money (even though it does not benefit them directly)

Sexual harassment is when someone makes degrading and abusive remarks or gestures around a sexual nature such as gender or sexual orientation. This can happen anywhere. This can involve

  • Being stared at
  • Subjection to sexual jokes, language, or propositions
  • Experiencing unwanted sexual touching
  • Listening to comments about someone else’s sexual activity

Stalking is when someone, who the child may or may not know, gives them unwanted attention or behaves in a way which causes fear or alarm. This can involve

  • Following
  • Unwanted contact through phone call, email, texts, or letters
  • Sending unwanted gifts
  • Standing outside the child's home, workplace, or school
  • Physical, sexual, verbal assault and threats.

How can I help a child or young person ?

It can be difficult to speak to a child about their experience. It can be difficult to know what is the right or wrong thing to say. Here are 5 things to consider when having a challenging conversation with a child

Listen carefully – show the child you are listening, make it clear you are interested and value what they are saying.
Allow time – it may take some time for a child to share what has happened. Make it clear they can speak to you when they feel the time is right for them. They may feel more comfortable to talking to someone else. Check this out and don't feel bad if that isn't you just now.
Choose simple language – try to avoid using terminology that your child might not understand and keep it as straightforward as possible.
Accept and don’t judge – a child who has experienced sexual abuse may feel they are not believed. If you accept and believe their story, this is the first step in supporting them to seek help.
Ensure you are aware of confidentiality – make it clear that you want your child to feel comfortable about what they are sharing with you and that you won’t tell friends/family etc. unless they want you to, BUT if you are concerned about their safety or wellbeing you should contact the authorities. NEVER promise to keep things a secret. See our useful links page or contact NSPCC on 0808 800 5000 to get advice.

Remember this is a challenging time for you too and take care of yourself. You may be experiencing a variety of emotions such as guilt, confusion, anger, or sadness and may find it difficult to process what has happened. WRASAC offer support to family, friends or carers of young survivors of sexual abuse, violence, and rape. Our team recognise the importance of support to you so you can effectively help the young survivor.

Rape Crisis Scotland have produced various leaflets to help you support a survivor. Click here to see their catalogue.