What is Child Sexual Abuse?
An act performed by an adult or an older person that uses a child for sexual stimulation or gratification is called child sexual abuse (CSA). It is a form of molestation and more often than not, the child may not even realize what is happening to him/her.

Child sexual abuse can be perpetrated in different ways apart from the act of sexually touching/indulging with a child. This includes (and is not limited to) showing a child pornographic content or nudity, making them undress against their wishes when not required, exposing genitals in front of them or forcing them to see someone undress or using a child for pornography.

The consequences of such an act of molestation on a child is multifold. The child goes into a shell and stops communicating with others properly, or may go into depression or may experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In some cases, the perpetrator of such an act of sexual abuse is a person the child knows personally. This could either mean a family member or a close family friend. In such cases, the adverse effects on the child is much worse since they may have to keep interacting with the perpetrator often. The long-term effects of CSA on a child can be highly traumatizing, especially if the child does not open up about it to safe adults and suffers in silence. In a lot of cases, the abusers blackmail the children into silence such that their identity is not revealed and continue to abuse the child for gratifying their own needs.

The statistics on child sexual abuse is, more often than not, hard to state accurately as a lot of cases go unreported due to a plethora of reasons. Despite that, the numbers on the same around the world are alarming.

Studies by the Director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center (United States of America) state that over the course of their lifetime, 28% of those between the ages 14 and 17 in the U.S. had been sexually victimized. It further states that 16% of those between the same ages had been sexually victimized during a one-year period. A National Institute of Justice report (2003) further states that 3 out of 4 sexually assaulted adolescents were abused by someone they personally knew well.

A government commissioned survey in India in the year 2007 revealed that over 53% of children surveyed across 13 states had faced one or more forms of sexual abuse. Even scarier is the fact that in a lot of cases, the perpetrators turned out to be the parents themselves.

Reports also state that children between the ages of 3 and 8 are the ones who are most vulnerable to sexual abuse. Despite these numbers though, Australian Childhood Foundation (2010) noted that 1 in 3 adults would not believe a child who disclosed being sexually abused. Given the fact that children are vulnerable to such molestation, it is important for adults to pay heed to what children say especially given that in 98% of the cases reported to officials, the children’s statements turned out to be true (NSW Child Protection Council, 1998).

So what do we do to best protect our children? Teach them about safe and unsafe touches, make sure they are not left alone with people you don’t trust and reassure the child that they can open up to you about anything they want to. In case the child does report something to you, listen to them attentively, make them feel safe and then take the necessary action.