Sexual Abuse


According to Texas Family Code, sexual conduct harmful to a child's mental, emotional, or physical welfare, including conduct that constitutes the offense of continuous sexual abuse of young child or children under Section 21.02, Penal Code, indecency with a child under Section 21.11, Penal Code, sexual assault under Section 22.011, Penal Code, or aggravated sexual assault under Section 22.021, Penal Code;

(F) failure to make a reasonable effort to prevent sexual conduct harmful to a child;

(G) compelling or encouraging the child to engage in sexual conduct as defined by Section 43.01, Penal Code, including compelling or encouraging the child in a manner that constitutes an offense of trafficking of persons under Section 20A.02(a)(7) or (8), Penal Code, prostitution under Section 43.02(b), Penal Code, or compelling prostitution under Section 43.05(a)(2), Penal Code;

(H) causing, permitting, encouraging, engaging in, or allowing the photographing, filming, or depicting of the child if the person knew or should have known that the resulting photograph, film, or depiction of the child is obscene as defined by Section 43.21, Penal Code, or pornographic;

(I) the current use by a person of a controlled substance as defined by Chapter 481, Health and Safety Code, in a manner or to the extent that the use results in physical, mental, or emotional injury to a child;

(J) causing, expressly permitting, or encouraging a child to use a controlled substance as defined by Chapter 481, Health and Safety Code;

(K) causing, permitting, encouraging, engaging in, or allowing a sexual performance by a child as defined by Section 43.25, Penal Code; or

(L) knowingly causing, permitting, encouraging, engaging in, or allowing a child to be trafficked in a manner punishable as an offense under Section 20A.02(a)(5), (6), (7), or (8), Penal Code, or the failure to make a reasonable effort to prevent a child from being trafficked in a manner punishable as an offense under any of those sections.

Child sexual abuse describes any incident in an adult, adolescent or child uses their power and authority to engage a minor in a sexual act, or exposes the minor to inappropriate sexual behavior or material. A person may sexually abuse a child using threats and physical force, but sexual abuse often involves subtle forms of manipulation, in which the child is coerced into believing that the activity is an expression of love, or that the child bought the abuse upon themselves. Sexual abuse involves contact and non-contact offences.

Sexually abusive behaviors can include the fondling of genitals, masturbation, oral sex, vaginal or anal penetration by a penis, finger or any other object, fondling of breasts, voyeurism, exhibitionism and exposing the child to or involving the child in pornography (CFCA Resource Sheet, 2015: Bromfield, 2005; US National Research Council, 1993).

How many children are sexually abused? 

Up to 8 percent of males and 12 percent of females experience penetrative child sexual abuse and up to 16 percent of males and up to 36 percent of females experience non-penetrative child sexual abuse (Price-Robertson, Bromfield & Vassallo, 2010).  Adult retrospective studies show that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men were sexually abused before the age of 18 (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, 2006.


Who is most likely to be sexually abused? 

Whilst all children are vulnerable to sexual abuse, girls are more likely to be sexually abused than boys. Disabled children are up to seven times more likely to be abused than their non-disabled peers (Briggs 2006).

Who sexually abuses children? 

Most sexual abusers are male although females also do perpetrate abuse (McCloskey & Raphael, 2005).  Some offenders are serial perpetrators – high risk, others opportunistic (due to lack of control) and some situational (Irony, Bromfield, Beyer, & Higgins, 2006). Most adults who sexually abuse children are not mentally ill and do not meet the diagnostic criteria for "pedophilia" i.e. are sexually attracted to children.

Signs in childhood

Sexually abused children exhibit a range of behaviors, including: withdrawn, unhappy and suicidal behavior; self-harm and suicidality; aggressive and violent behavior; bedwetting, sleep problems, nightmares; eating problems e.g. anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa; mood swings; detachment; pains for no medical reason; sexual behavior, language, or knowledge too advanced for their age.

Signs in adulthood

Adults sexually abused as children often experience poorer mental and physical health than other adults (Draper et al., 2007). They are more likely to have a history of eating disorders, anxiety, depression and other mental health issues, substance abuse, self-harm and suicide attempts. Sexual abuse is also associated with difficulties in interpersonal relationships, self-esteem, completing an education and maintaining employment.