Child sexual abuse

Child sexual abuse, also called child molestation, is a form of child abuse in which an adult or older adolescent uses a child for sexual stimulation.[1][2] Forms of child sexual abuse include engaging in sexual activities with a child (whether by asking or pressuring, or by other means), indecent exposure (of the genitals, female nipples, etc.), child grooming, and child sexual exploitation,[3][4][5] including using a child to produce child pornography.[1][6][7]

Child sexual abuse can occur in a variety of settings, including home, school, or work (in places where child labor is common). Child marriage is one of the main forms of child sexual abuse; UNICEF has stated that child marriage "represents perhaps the most prevalent form of sexual abuse and exploitation of girls".[8] The effects of child sexual abuse can include depression,[9] post-traumatic stress disorder,[10] anxiety,[11] complex post-traumatic stress disorder,[12] propensity to further victimization in adulthood,[13] and physical injury to the child, among other problems.[14] Sexual abuse by a family member is a form of incest and can result in more serious and long-term psychological trauma, especially in the case of parental incest.[15]

The global prevalence of child sexual abuse has been estimated at 19.7% for females and 7.9% for males.[16] Most sexual abuse offenders are acquainted with their victims; approximately 30% are relatives of the child, most often brothers, fathers, uncles, or cousins;[17] around 60% are other acquaintances, such as "friends" of the family, babysitters, or neighbors; strangers are the offenders in approximately 10% of child sexual abuse cases.[18] Most child sexual abuse is committed by men; studies on female child molesters show that women commit 14% to 40% of offenses reported against boys and 6% of offenses reported against girls.[18][19][20]

The word pedophile is commonly applied indiscriminately to anyone who sexually abuses a child,[21] but child sexual offenders are not pedophiles unless they have a strong sexual interest in prepubescent children.[22][23] Under the law, child sexual abuse is often used as an umbrella term describing criminal and civil offenses in which an adult engages in sexual activity with a minor or exploits a minor for the purpose of sexual gratification.[7][24] The American Psychological Association states that "children cannot consent to sexual activity with adults", and condemns any such action by an adult: "An adult who engages in sexual activity with a child is performing a criminal and immoral act which never can be considered normal or socially acceptable behavior."[25]