What is sexual abuse?

Sexual abuse of children can happen in many different ways.

It may include:

  • Sexual touching of any part of the body, clothed or unclothed, including using an object.
    Assault by penetration, including rape or penetration of the mouth with an object or part of the body;
  • Encouraging a child to engage in sexual activity, including: sexual acts with someone else and making a child strip or masturbate;
  • Intentionally engaging in sexual activity in front of a child;
  • Not taking proper measures to prevent a child being exposed to sexual activities by others.
  • Meeting a child following sexual grooming, with the intent of abusing them;
  • Taking, making, allowing someone to take, distributing, showing or advertising indecent images of children;
  • Paying for the sexual services of a child;
  • Encouraging a child into prostitution or pornography;
  • Showing a child images of sexual activity, including photographs, videos or via webcams.

There are two different types of child sexual abuse. These are called contact abuse and non-contact abuse:

Contact abuse is where an abuser makes physical contact with a child, including penetration.

Non-contact abuse covers other acts where the abuser doesn’t touch the child, such as grooming, exploitation, persuading children to perform sexual acts over the internet and flashing.

Child sexual abuse online

When sexual exploitation happens online, young people may be persuaded, or forced, to:

  • send or post sexually explicit images of themselves;
  • take part in sexual activities via a webcam or smartphone;
  • have sexual conversations by text or online.

Abusers may threaten to send images, video or copies of conversations to the young person’s friends and family unless they take part in other sexual activity.

Images or videos may continue to be shared long after the sexual abuse has stopped.


Current legal definition: Sexual assault is an act of physical, psychological and emotional violation, in the form of a sexual act, which is inflicted on someone without consent. It can involve forcing or manipulating someone to witness or participate in any sexual acts.

More info

Drug rape/date rape

Drug rape is when someone has sex with you, having knowingly given you a substance to make you vulnerable and unable to take care of yourself properly. Any substances that makes you become incapable of saying “no” can be called “date rape drugs”.

More info

What is rape?

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 (the Act) came into force on the 1st May 2004. The purpose of the Act was to strengthen and modernise the law on sexual offences, whilst improving preventative measures and the protection of individuals from sexual offenders.

More info

01872 262100

Talk to us

We are here to listen