What is Sexual Abuse?

Child sexual abuse includes a range of behaviours from obvious contact offences such as touching or fondling genitalia, to the less obvious non-contact offences which include exposure to sexually explicit material. Children can experience sexual abuse and trauma without a contact offence occuring and the damage can be equally as harmful depending upon the nature of the child.

The following examples of contact and non-contact sexual abuse are not meant to be exclusive and can include:

Non-contact sexual abuse

  • Online luring to meet for a sexual encounter
  • Invitation to sexual touching (online and/or offline)
  • Voyeurism (“Peeping Tom”)
  • Exposure to sexually explicit material
  • Child pornography *
  • Sexually intrusive questions or comments
  • Encouraging or forcing a child to masturbate or watch others masturbate
  • Exposure to sexually explicit acts
  • “Flashing” or exposing genitals


Child pornography deals with child abuse imagery and material. An offender may be involved in creating, possessing, making available and/or distributing child pornography, all of which involve the sexual abuse and exploitation of children.

Contact sexual abuse

  • Touching or fondling genital area
  • Touching or fondling breasts
  • Forcing contact with another’s genital area
  • Oral sex
  • Vaginal or anal intercourse
  • Vaginal or anal penetration with object or finger


Research reveals that individuals who sexually abuse children usually know their victim. This includes family members or someone in the family’s circle of trust (i.e. family friend, educator or coach). Offenders come from all walks of life and cannot be picked out or identified by appearance. It is essential to pay attention to behaviours and situations that present risk rather than focusing on an individual’s character.