A claim of child sexual abuse is found or substantiated by child protective services every eight minutes, making it a widespread problem. Child sexual abuse is a crime that inflicts lasting damage on victims. Any form of sexual activity with a minor qualifies as child sexual abuse. Children cannot consent to sexual activity in any form, and there does not have to be physical contact between the perpetrator and the victim to be considered child sexual abuse.
Any of the following are forms of child sexual abuse:
- Phone calls or text messages of a sexual nature, or similar digital communication
- Exposing oneself to a minor
- Masturbation in front of a minor, or making the child masturbate
- Sex of any kind with a minor whether vaginal, oral, or anal
- Sex trafficking
- Any kind of sexual behavior that harms the child’s emotional or mental well-being or physical welfare
Most victims under the age of 18 know their abusers. Among cases reported to law enforcement, 93 percent of the victims knew the perpetrators. Of those, family members accounted for 34 percent of the cases, and 59 percent were acquaintances of the victim. Perpetrators do not have to be adults. Anyone in a relationship with the child, especially someone in a position of authority, can be an abuser. It could be a family member, teacher, caretaker, playmate, older sibling, coach, or parent of a friend.
Child sexual abuse is more than a physical crime, it is an abuse of authority and trust which is why the damaging effects can last long into adulthood. The perpetrator often uses a position of authority to intimidate and coerce the child. They may threaten the child for refusing to participate or may try to convince them that this is “normal” activity that they should enjoy.
Because perpetrators of child sexual abuse are so often people that the family or child knows and trusts, it may be difficult to recognize that abuse is taking place. The signs may or may not be physical. Know these warning signs of child sexual abuse:
- Changes in Behavior
- Trouble in school with grades or attendance
- Suicidal thoughts, especially in adolescents
- Regressive behavior, such as thumb sucking
- Avoidance of physical contact
- Nightmares and bed-wetting
- Refusal to bathe, or excessive bathing
- Inappropriate sexual knowledge and behavior
- Bloody, stained, or torn underwear
- Difficulty walking or sitting
- Bruises, swelling, or bleeding in genital area
- Urinary or yeast infections
- Pain, itching, or burning in genital area
Victims of child sexual abuse face a long path to healing and recovery and are often left with feelings of guilt, shame, despair, and anger. They can suffer from low self-esteem, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, an inability to trust others, are at a high risk for aggressive or suicidal behavior, promiscuity or sexual identity problems, substance abuse, and teen pregnancy.
Reporting Suspected Child Sexual Abuse
In New Jersey, if you notice any of the warning signs above and suspect a child is being sexually abused, you are obligated to report your suspicions to the New Jersey abuse hotline. The report can be made anonymously and proof is not needed to report suspected abuse.
New Jersey Child Abuse Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Fight to Protect Victims of Child Sexual Abuse
The dedicated child abuse lawyers in New Jersey at Lyons & Associates, P.C. are committed to helping the most vulnerable victims of abuse. Call 908-575-9777 or contact us online. From our offices in Somerville, New Jersey, we can help you with all your family law needs.