National Contacts Keywords
Back to Index
SuggestionsAbout this feature.
Size: View this resource with small text View this resource with medium text View this resource with large text View this resource with high visibility

Sexual Abuse

Updated July 2011

This definition was updated in July 2011 to include applicability to adults.

In relation to children:

The following definition is taken from Working Together to Safeguard Children 2010, paragraph 1.35.

Sexual abuse is a form of Significant Harm which involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, not necessarily involving a high level of violence, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact, including assault by penetration (for example rape or oral sex) or non-penetrative acts such as masturbation, kissing, rubbing and touching outside of clothing. They may also include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, sexual images, watching sexual activities, encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways, or grooming a child in preparation for abuse (including via the Internet). Sexual abuse is not solely perpetrated by adult males. Women can also commit acts of sexual abuse, as can other children.

In relation to adults:

Direct or indirect involvement in sexual activity without valid consent. Consent to a particular activity may not be given because:

  • a person has Capacity and does not want to give it;
  • a person lacks Capacity and is therefore unable to give it;
  • a person feels coerced into activity because the other person is in a position of trust, power or authority.