What is Sexual Abuse

Sexual Abuse

The Right to be safe: Children have a right to be safe and should be protected from all forms of abuse and neglect.

Taking Responsibility: Safeguarding children is everyone responsibility. It is legislation therefore; doing nothing is not an option.

Helping Early: We need to help children’s and early as possible before a situation escalates, which often places them at an increased risk of harm.

Coordinates Responses:  Children and families are best supported and protected when all relevant agencies, such as schools and healthcare staff ,work together.

Types of sexual abuse

  1. Physical contact -involves anything to do with sexual violence, such as:
    1. Rape: The intentional penetration of the vagina, anus or mouth of the victim with a penis.
    2. Assault by penetration: The intentional penetration of the vagina or anus with a part of the perpetrator’s body or with anything else.
    3. Sexual assault: The intentional sexual touching of another person, such as masturbating, kissing, rubbing and touching outside of clothing.

 Non-contact activities : Intentionally causing a child to engage in a sexual activity, for example:

    • Forcing them to look at or make sexual images or watch sexual activities. •
    • Encouraging them to behave in sexually inappropriate ways.
    • Grooming them, including online.
  1. Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is a separate form of sexual abuse because it usually doesn’t involve violence but can lead to it. It includes:

  1. Sexual comments, jokes, taunting and stories, sexual remarks about clothes and appearance and calling someone sexualised names.
  2. Physical behaviour, such as deliberately brushing against someone, interfering with someone’s clothes like lifting skirts. •
  3. Displaying and sharing pictures, photos or drawings of a sexual nature. •
  4. Online sexual harassment: non-consensual sharing of sexual images and videos, unwanted sexual comments and messages, sexual exploitation, coercion and threats.

Some main points to consider about sexual Violence and harassment in schools are:

  • Children who experience sexual violence are likely to be distressed and embarrassed by it. This impact negatively on their education, mental health and social life.  They must be protected from any further harm.
  • Schools need to provide appropriate support to reduce the likelihood and impacts of sexual violence.
  • Sexual violence and harassment happen both online and offline.

Sexual Violence and harassment in schools include:

  • Groping
  • Flicking bras or lifting skirts
  • Derogatory and lewd comments
  • Non-consensual sharing of sexual images and videos. UKCCIS sexting advice provides detailed advice on this for schools and colleges

Focus: Children and Young People with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities: are more likely to experience sexual violence than their peers.

It can be difficult for practitioners to recognise sexual violence and harassment in SEND children because :

  • Assumptions are made that indicators of possible abuse are linked to the child’s disability, and are therefore ignored.
  • All staff supporting SEND children must understand how they communicate as some might have difficulties. This helps to reduce indicators of abuse being ignored or left undetected.

Identifying sexual abuse

Symptoms due to local trauma or infection

Children might: •

  • Be sore around their bottom. •
  • Have vaginal discharge, urinary tract infections, anal pain or bleeding.

You could also check for bruising, lacerations, burns, bites, or scratches on the inner thighs, breasts, genital or anal region.

Symptoms of emotional distress

Look out for: •

  • Loss of concentration, resulting in poor Performance at school
  • Bed-wetting
  • Soiling
  • Eating disorders

Self harm : Victims of sexual abuse often self-loath and are unable to tell on their abuser, as it is often a close family member or friend. To ease the pain, they might act out their distress through: •

  • Drug or alcohol misuse. •
  • Cutting, burning or scarring themselves, making themselves sick. •
  • Suicide attempts.

Sexualised behaviours or inappropriate sexual knowledge

  • This may be acquired by watching others have sex, porn or reading pornographic literature.
  • Children who have been sexually abused might also describe pain or other features such as the texture or taste of semen, which cannot be acquired by observation only. They might also abuse other children.

Sexually transmitted infections (STI) Some child victims of sexual abuse may have sexually transmitted infections.

Pregnancy A young girl that is either unable to explain her pregnancy or refuses to identify the father could have been abused and raped.

There are many other symptoms and signs that can point towards sexual abuse.  Sometimes they may be evidence of other conditions and are therefore difficult to identify.

Important Summary:

  • Sexual violence and harassment can happen between children of any age, or sex and between just two or groups of children.
  • Children who experience sexual violence are likely distressed and embarrassed by it, impacting negatively on their education, mental health and social life.
  • Children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities are especially vulnerable.