Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse can take the form of touching, where another person either touches the child’s genitals for sexual pleasure or makes or encourages the child touch their genitals.

It can also include non-touching activity, like showing pornographic images to a child, photographing a child in sexual poses, inappropriately watching a child undress or use the bathroom, or where the other person deliberately exposes their own genitals to the child.

There’s also an increasing problem with people making and downloading sexual images on the internet.

Possible signs that a child is being sexually abused include them:

  • acting out sexual behaviour when they are playing with their toys
  • undergoing personality changes like becoming withdrawn, angry, clingy or seeming insecure
  • developing sleeping problems or regressive behaviours like bed-wetting
  • having unreasonable fears about places or people.

There may also be physical signs such as unexplained soreness or bruising.

If you think a child is in immediate danger, you should contact the police on 999 straight away.

However, it can be very difficult to know what to do if you are unsure, especially if you are not certain that a child is being sexually abused. Parentline call-takers can help talk through your concerns and decide on an appropriate course of action to ensure the child you are worried about stays safe.

Contact Parentline

We also provide web-chat during opening hours.