Sexual abuse is sexual contact with a child or any behavior that is meant to sexually arouse the abuser. 

    More to Know

    Examples of sexual abuse are:

    • rape
    • fondling a child's genitals or making a child touch someone else's genitals
    • making a child pose or perform for pornographic pictures or videos
    • telling a child dirty jokes or stories
    • showing a child pornographic material
    • forcing a child to undress
    • "flashing" a child (exposing the genitals)

    Sexual abuse can leave both physical injuries and emotional scars. In the United States, there are child abuse laws in place to protect kids from this kind of abuse. Adults who sexually abuse children can be sent to jail or have their children taken away. 

    Keep in Mind

    People who are abused as kids can have emotional scars as adults. They are more likely to have trouble with relationships, low self-esteem, depression, thoughts of suicide, and other mental health issues. Therapy can help people heal from these experiences.   

    All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2023 KidsHealth® All rights reserved. Images provided by iStock, Getty Images, Corbis, Veer, Science Photo Library, Science Source Images, Shutterstock, and