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Family Law – Child Sexual Abuse

Child Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse can happen to both men and women, even children. No gender or age is exempted, that is why it is important to spread awareness on how the family and the community can protect each and everyone, especially the most vulnerable member of society, our children.

Child sexual abuse is a form of child abuse that involves an adult or an older adolescent taking advantage of children for sexual gratification. Forms of child sexual abuse (amongst others) include:

  1. Forcing a child to engage in sexual activities;

  1. Forcing a child to expose his genitals to gratify his or her own sexual desires;

  1. Physical contact with the child;

  1. Child pornography.

Child sexual abuse can be divided into three levels of severity:

  1. Non-contact abuse – Exposing a child to sexual solicitation;

  1. Contact abuse – Exposing a child to genital touching or fondling; and

  1. Penetrative abuse – Exposing a child to oral, anal or vaginal intercourse.

Sadly, studies indicate that child sexual abuse is more frequent in families. One of the reasons why child sexual abuse continues to occur is the secrecy that surrounds it. Children involved in sexual abuse are most often threatened or coerced by their perpetrators not to tell anyone, otherwise there will be consequences. As a result, parents are often unaware of the grave condition that his or her child is going through.

A family plays a pivotal role in protecting children in this kind of abuse. Therefore, it is important for a parent or caregiver to be aware of the following indicators of sexual abuse amongst children:

  1. Physical Indicators

  • Bruises, scratches, itching, soreness, discharge or unexplained bleeding in the genital or anal areas;
  • Painful and frequent urination;
  • Signs of sexually transmitted disease;
  • Semen in vagina, anus, external genitalia, or on clothing;
  • Difficulty in walking or sitting;
  • Unexplained pain in the genital area;
  • Recurrent urinary tract infection.
  1. Behavioural Indicators

  • Frequent mood swings;
  • Depression;
  • Experiencing a hard time sleeping or experiencing recurrent nightmares;
  • Bedwetting, separation anxiety, insecurity;
  • Showing an unusual interest in the genitals of others;
  • Public masturbation;
  • Fear of strangers or fear of men;
  • Poor peer relationship;
  • Reluctance to undress;
  • Problems with school.

Section 23(1)(c) of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act (NSW) 1998 states that a child or young person is considered to be “at risk of significant harm” if he or she has been or is at risk of being physically or sexually abused or ill treated

All jurisdictions have some sort of mandatory reporting requirements of some description. In NSW, the following people have a duty to report to the Director-General the name, or a description of the child and the grounds for suspecting that the child is at risk of significant harm, if they have reasonable grounds to suspect that a child is at risk of significant harm and those grounds arise during the course of or from the person’s work:

  1. a person who, in the course of his or her professional work or other paid employment delivers health care, welfare, education, children’s services, residential services, or law enforcement, wholly or partly, to children; and

  1. a person who holds a management position in an organisation the duties of which include direct responsibility for, or direct supervision of, the provision of health care, welfare, education, children’s services, residential services, or law enforcement, wholly or partly, to children.

Child sexual abuse is a criminal offence. If you believe a child is at risk of sexual abuse, contact our Family Law Solicitors for advice.

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