Sexual abuse is often a silent crime, since it involves no witnesses other than the perpetrator and the victim.
What is it?
Sexual abuse occurs when an adult or adolescent uses a child for sexual purposes or subjects that child to his desires using force or restraint, emotional manipulation, blackmail, or implied or explicit threats.
Examples of abuse: touching, kisses of a sexual nature, masturbation, oral-genital contact, penetration or attempted penetration, exhibitionist behaviours or voyeurism.
What are the consequences?
Sexual abuse seriously affects the child’s physical or psychological integrity, his sense of security and his dignity. It leaves many scars: post-traumatic stress, depression, alcohol or drug abuse, problematic sexual behaviours, suicidal thoughts, etc.
How can you detect it?
Sexual abuse is not easy to detect, since it generally leaves no visible physical marks and often relies on the sole testimony of the child. Furthermore, signs and behaviours that allow its detection can vary considerably depending on the nature and seriousness of the abuse, its frequency and the victim’s relationship with the abuser.
What can you do?
When a child states that he is a victim of sexual abuse, it is important to take him seriously, to listen to him calmly without questioning him, and noting what he says. The first thing to do is to alert youth protection authorities by telephone at 1 800 567-8520 or the police department.
For additional information, go to the website of the Marie-Vincent Expertise Centre, which offers specialized services to victims of sexual abuse and their parents.