Child Sexual Abuse Occurs When a Child is Exploited Sexually by Another Person
It may include, but is not limited to, the following:
- Exposure of the genitals
- Obscene phone calls or texts
- Obscene internet solicitation
- Use of pornography
- Oral, vaginal, or anal intercourse
According to several Wisconsin laws, several types of predatory behaviors can be criminally charged. These range from felony to misdemeanor crimes. Learn more about the child sexual assault laws by visiting Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault (WCASA) website here
In most cases, child sexual abuse is a gradual process. Often, the child knows the abuser: a family member, a friend, or a person in another trusted role. The perpetrator tests boundaries and establishes a power imbalance with the child victim. Perpetrators use certain techniques to gain trust and ensure silence and secrecy; this is called grooming.
Common grooming techniques include, but are not limited to:
- Giving gifts and making promises
- Using praise and affirmations
- Making threats that the victim or those the victim loves will be harmed or punished
- Sending messages that the abuse is normal
- Testing boundaries, for example engaging in sexualized talk or dress
- Creating secrets around non-abusive interactions to test the depth of secrecy
- Gaining the trust of a non-abusive/protective and trusted adult in the victim’s life
- Giving messages that it is their fault and they deserve to be abused
- Using physical harm
How To Help a Child Victim
Victims can feel confused, guilt ridden, or afraid to disclose the abuse. The grooming techniques the perpetrator uses may make the victim worried no one will believe them, that they will be blamed, and even that they might be punished. These feelings and concerns can cause a child to conceal their abuse for a period of time, until after the threat/fear subsides, or indefinitely.
If a child discloses sexual abuse, it is critcal to listen and believe them. Disclosure isn’t always linear or cohesive and may emerge in fragments. The following are helpful guidelines:
- Question the child or the details of their experience
- Assess immediate safety concerns: Will they see the perpetrator soon? Do they have any injuries? Has the perpetrator made any threats?
- Connect them with a safe and neutral adult such as a counselor, therapist, or advocate who can provide assistance.
In some cases, professionals such as teachers, counselors/therapists, and others working with children and youth are mandated reporters. That means these professionals are required to report any disclosure of child sexual abuse to law enforcement or their county’s Child Protective Service Department. Learn more here
Child sexual abuse can have longterm mental and physical health effects. The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACES) highlights several health outcomes that a child victim may face as they move on from the trauma. Learn more about ACES below:
ACES – Adverse Childhood Experiences Study
The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study was conducted to establish the relationship between childhood trauma and that person’s overall health (mental and physical). The study established a set of risk factors correlated to poor physical and mental health outcomes, as well as to social justice issues. This study does not address racial, cultural, or historical trauma.